Category Archives: Magical Musings

Resident Magician at The Thirsty Scarecrow

Hi guys,

I have very exciting news. As of 2 weeks ago I am the resident magician at The Thirsty Scarecrow. I will be there every Sunday until the end of the year. So come along and partake in some awesome food and company and be amazed by some magic!

I must say I have been having such fun performing for the customers. The staff and management are supportive and the atmosphere is just homey. Not only do you get good food, great magic, but the view of the Mooiberge strawberry fields and mountain hills are to die for!

I’ll be performing every Sunday between 1 and 4pm.

Directions to the Thirsty Scarecrow from Cape Town are here:

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Through a Murky Window, one is unsure of what they see : Clarity in our magic.

As magicians, our ultimate goal is to entertain (should this not be true to you reading this, might I suggest a change in profession/hobby). In order to be successful at this goal it is imperative that our audiences understand what our magic is all about. We need to make sure that each effect we do is received in the manner in which we delivered it. Yes, I am talking about clarity.

Clarity

Google defines clarity as “the quality of being coherent and intelligible.” Being clear in our instructions and the way in which we give over our magic is an integral part in our goal to entertain. The last thing we want is for our spectator(s) to watch a trick that you have spent hours practicing and a lot of time and effort in setting up, only to be disappointed because you never explained yourself clearly and therefore the spectator completely missed the climax and the warm-fuzzy feeling they would have gotten from witnessing the true magic that is you.

So what are some of the steps we should take in assuring clarity?

Before we get to the part of delivering your patter and trick effectively and clearly, we need to actually establish if our patter is clear and if the direction of the trick is clear.

Darwin Ortiz in his book Strong Magic discusses the idea of clarity. Strong MagicHe says “What is really essential for strong magic is not simplicity of effect, but clarity of effect.” (Ortiz, 30 ; 1994). Clarity does not equal simplicity. A simple transposition will not make sense if it is not clear. Similarly a floating piece of money that jumps around a card box, where the construction is very complex; the presentation needs to be clear in order for that effect to be understood.

Ortiz spends some time on the topic of clarity and I will summarise what he is saying and hopefully this will aid in our magic becoming clearer.

First, Ortiz suggests writing down all the tricks that you do and under each one, in 3 sentences or less write a summary of the effect. Actually grab a pen and paper and write them down. Go now please. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Now that you have written your effect summaries, perform each effect and then look back at the summary. You might find that you need to change a thing or two but ultimately you want to end up with the essence of the trick on that piece of paper.

The next step is looking at the summaries and making sure that when the spectator sees the effect, they are interpreting it how you want them to. There are only a few effects where without voice they can be understood only one way. Most tricks require patter. For example, you are doing an ambitious card routine; who is causing the card to come to the top? Is it the snap or magical move of the magician or is it a gesture from the spectator? Is it a word, a relevant time frame? A phrase? Do you get the idea?

The next bit is to look at your patter and see where the emphasis lies. Are you emphasising the important aspects of the effect? Where you put emphasis on shows what is important. In a pick-a-card trick, are you spending more time on the aspect of losing a card in the deck or on the aspect of finding it? Is the trick about finding the location of the card or making sure it’s superbly lost and can’t be found? Now go back to your patter and get rid of any action, word, phrase, or sentence that does not contribute to the essential effect that you are creating.

Patter informs the spectators what is about to happen; paints a story for the spectators to grab onto. The last thing we want is to burden our spectators by making them work, and what is the type of work that we hate doing? Mental work. If your patter is structured in such a way where the spectator has to actually think and you’re leading them down convoluted pathways, then they will get lost and your effect and hard work will be all for naught. It will also piss them off!

When it comes to designing our tricks, we want to make things as easy as possible not only for us but for our spectators. If we clutter our patter and tricks, it will not only cause confusion but it could also make the spectators upset for either paying for a magic show and instead not understanding a single part therefore ruining their evening/day; or wasting time and energy in trying to follow the magician’s stories.

I spent time working through this process and it was a huge eye-opener for me to see what clutter was surrounding the tricks I get paid to do. I hope you will gain as much benefit from the exercise as I have. Good luck!

 

 

 

Ortiz, D. (1994). Strong Magic. Ortiz Publications. United States of America.

 

 

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My Visit To The Magic Castle.

For years we have dreamed of going on holiday to America. “The dollar is too expensive”; “You possibly can’t afford to do this.” Well let me just put it out there for all: We did it, on our own, no help, our own initiative, and we saved every penny we took with us. Boy I am so proud of our trip. We had such an incredible time. Now, I’m not going to spend this post going through what we did from Day 1 to Day 14, but I will touch on a few experiences that have some magical touches.

Ever since getting into magic, I have heard about the Magic Castle, In Los Angeles and how it is a prestigious club where magicians perform. I’m fortunate enough to have quite an extensive digital library of Magic and a lot of the magicians seem to bring up the Castle and how it is an honour to perform there. So naturally I have wanted to check the place out, and I swore to myself that when I finally do get to the States I will go and visit the Castle. It’s like a tourist coming to Cape Town and not going up Table Mountain – unheard of. Little did I know tickets to L.A are so expensive, but that didn’t stop me and we made a whole trip out of it. We went to Disney, Universal Studios, Venice Beach, Santa Monica…. I digress. The Castle. Yes. So you need to be invited in order to go. I have a friend who performed there in December and he put me in touch with Tom Ogden who “hooked a brother up” and Lee-Ann; our host Rocky Solomon, and I went on the Sunday night to experience the Castle. That is exactly what it is, an experience. No two experiences will be the same. That is what is so awesome about it.

And Tom, who is a long-time member of the Castle and has performed there was an incredible host. You see, the website doesn’t really do justice to the Castle. The Castle is full of history. History that one can’t put on a website or in a blog post. It takes passion and love to take time to learn that the Castle is more than just a place for people to watch magic and Tom shared that side of the Castle to us. It really enhanced our evening. Thank you Tom.

You walk into the atrium where already the atmosphere is set for you: magic and mystery. The first bit of magic happened when I said the magic words to a wall full of books “Open sesame” wooooop, the door slides open. It felt eerie, yet welcoming. Everyone is dressed up so eloquently – suits, ties, dresses, and make-up. This pre-requisite for the Castle really puts forward how it takes the magic that is performed there: unique, high standards, special, and well-respected. We never ate at the restaurant due to the kosher food being incredibly expensive ($60+ per person per meal), so that meant we had to wait in longer lines in order to see the shows. Tom waited with us which made the wait so much quicker because that was when we really got to shmooze. We laughed and chatted about the Castle and Cape Town. Again, he is a character who I could see loves magic and loves what the Castle stands for.

The shows that we saw were just marvelous. I was fortunate enough to see 2 close-up shows, a ventriloquist, and 2 parlour shows. It is clear that the performers at the Castle are of a high caliber. Probably one of the best parts for me was seeing Irma in action… she is the ghost that plays the piano. Tom introduced us to her as his South African guests and she began to play our anthem. The people before us requested a song by 50 Cent, she played it, and she played it good. When you give her a tip “there’s a little something for you” she plays a happy tune. It was so awesome to watch. I wouldn’t mind a haunted piano in all honesty… as long as it doesn’t start freaking me out with theme songs from “Jaws”, “Psycho” and the like!

It was quite interesting to learn that pictures are not allowed to be taken in the Castle. Tom informed us that years ago it was permitted for photography, however because the lighting is so dim, the photos don’t turn out so well. The Castle is also a popular place for celebrities who just want some relaxed time with their loved ones and well you can imagine how relaxing it is for them if there are people crowding around and wanting pictures. All that being said, here are some pictures of the Castle taken by Star Foreman off the LA Weekly Slideshows. I hope you enjoy them, but please note that the pictures you see do not do it justice, and I highly suggest that you make sure when you’re next in L.A to go and check it out. It is a magical experience that you and whoever is privileged to go with you will not forget!

Stay tuned for more on our USA trip – Monday Night Magic in NYC is next!

Magic Castle, until we meet again…

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Performing The Right Effect(s) For Your Audiences

I went to a party 2 weeks ago and a magician was there. Okay so I felt a little resentment for the company who I know personally and support didn’t hire me but what can you do? Anyways, the magician is a guy who is well-known throughout Cape Town and I have attended many of his shows. Sadly he comes across as a one-trick pony because his shows are identical. That would be okay but if you’re the magician who is servicing a particular area (which he is), then it is obvious that 90% of any given audience in that particular area (such as the one I am talking about) would have seen the show.

So that already put a bad taste in my mouth. I love magic and I want magicians to succeed. But come on, if you know you’re famous and you know you have done an enormous amount of shows , then just change the show. Just change it. It’s not hard to mix things up a little, in fact it’s probably good for you as the magician to do that.

Well that’s not the point of my post. I want to discuss the importance of information and informing oneself before the show. What do I mean? It is important in my opinion to ask the following important questions before agreeing to do the show:

1. When is it?

Obviously this needs to be assessed in order to not double book oneself

2. How long is the show?

Again, obvious. One needs to be prepared with the right number of effects to perform that will cover the time.

3. How many people will attend?

It might decide whether the show is a stand-up or a close-up (especially if the person hiring you asks you to decide what is best).

4. Who is the audience?

This is important and this is what the post will be about.

 

This magician did magic that in my mind was irresponsible given the audience that was there. The above questions are obvious to ask from any magician especially someone as famous as this guy so I will not accept that he never knew his audience.

There are around 150 people of which a third or so were children under 11 years old. The kids were seated on the floor watching Mr Magician. He did a trick that I love, but for this audience was completely inappropriate. Children’s magic 101: Do not start a trick with the following: “Do not try this at home” because what will kids do? Exactly! Try this at home. Once I pulled a sponge ball out of my mouth in front of a child and someone warned me that they could possibly try that at home. Monkey see monkey do. Psychologically speaking children aren’t monkeys (lol) but they do copy adults. Any behaviourist will tell you that. It’s not what you say but what you do.

So this guy took a long balloon and proceeded to swallow it. How can you show that effect to children??

He ended off with an amazing effect. He looked at a wine glass, and it shattered all over the floor. What a way to end his show! Beautiful…. except…. There were 50 kids on the floor without shoes on…. Guess where the glass went? On the floor…. with the kids. There is a proverb that says: “There is a time and a place for everything under the sun” My friend, here is some advice for free: That ending was not done at the right time or place.”

As important as it is to end on a high note – one has to end on the note that is appropriate for the crowd, and in this case safe for the crowd.

I was not impressed. What are your thoughts?

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Magic and YOU!

So 2014 is well under way and I must say so far it is going well. There are some awesome things ahead for me and I am excited to share them with you as they occur.

I finally finished my honours in clinical psychology and next year I will be tackling Masters. I am already thinking about a thesis and I think something along the lines of deception and magic will do me well.

So with me now, I am embarking on restaurant magic. And I have been thinking about the interactions between the magician and the customers in the restaurant. The table that they are sitting at is their table. It is their private place to communicate with each other and enjoy their meal together. So what right does the magician have for coming in and entering their space? Their personal and private space?

So as the hired magician, whether working for tips or getting paid a flat rate it is your job to be there! But walking up; throwing your cards on the table; pulling up a chair; taking a sip of someone’s coke is just not the right way I’m afraid.

Just because you have the right to be there, doesn’t mean they will let you enter their space. So you need to be wary of that. Your entry to their table in my opinion is stronger than your first effect. First effects are incredibly important – I mean if your first trick is pup and weak then I’m afraid the chance of the tip or them enjoying the magic is quite low. But if you barge in their space and blow their minds out of the water, they probably will think you have incredible skill but are incredibly arrogant and either won’t return to the restaurant because of the chance that you will be there or they will refuse to see your magic and complain to the manager, which will not bode well for your career at that particular restaurant or even the future.

You need to smile. Show dem white, clean teeth. Psychologically speaking, the way we look, our first impression is what remains. Smiling is non-threatening.

You want the customers to be intrigued as to what you have to offer. You don’t want them to go “oh f**k the clown is here to show off.” So the smile lowers their guard and opens them up to the interruption.

Talking in a friendly voice, showing interest in them as people and not just as a vending machine that can vomit out money instead of a cold coke. These are people; humans with feelings. Going up and saying something like “Hey there, how was your meal? Oh you haven’t gotten it yet? I’m sure it’s on its way but in the mean time how about I share with you something that will play with your mind?” That sort of approach shows them that you’re interested. Look, there are many, MANY opening lines that work, however this is the one that I like.

Some magicians say that the customers don’t have the authority to answer the question if they want to see some magic because not many people have seen a close-up magician in real life. They have seen Dynamo and David Blaine and clowns, but not a legit close-up magician. I hear that point and agree with it, but I think just walking up and going straight into an effect could seem invasive. Again I suppose it depends on the table as well as your style. I wouldn’t say “I’m a magician let me show you a trick” I would show them I am a magician. But I would ask if they would like to see something mind-boggling.

I guess after writing all this, the opening effect is YOU (and Eugene Burger agrees). So be the best you you can be and go and wow the next table you walk up to! I know I will.

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Building People Up and Tearing Them Down

Magic is very powerful. It can build spectators up and it can tear them down. It can also build magicians up and tear them down. What do I mean? Read on and find out!

Building spectators up

As magicians we hold a lot of power. We choose how we want to use that power. Either we can use it to empower the spectator, by letting them feel that the magic is happening because of them. We can also make spectators feel that they mean more to us than just a vehicle to show off our skills. We can create a rapport with them, learn their names. I mean actually learning their names, not just “Hi, I’m Greg, what’s your name? Oh hello Mary” then you walk away and think “Oh what a lovely spectator…umm….ummmm… she was” Taking time to remember their names, even if you only say their name once makes that experience for YOU as the magician more meaningful and it will rub off on the spectator(s) as well.

Another great way to show spectators they actually mean something to you, is to talk to them on a non-magic level. Ask information about them: What they do for a living etc. It really enhances the relationship.

Treating spectators with respect and really being a mensch (a well-rounded, well-mannered human being) not only makes your magic more enjoyable but it makes the time that you shared with the spectator more meaningful.

Tearing spectators down

All you have to do is the opposite of building spectators up. Be arrogant, egotistical, rude, and selfish and please if you are going to tear a spectator down, don’t forget to make them feel this tall:an inch tall

You don’t want to remember their name or treat them like they have any purpose other than to show how incredibly talented you are.

Building magicians up

Yes, it is important to perform magic where you are building yourself up. Perform effects that you are comfortable with performing. When you do magic well, people respect you. When you build them up and perform awesome magic properly, people will recognise your skill and will think you are incredible. That is important for a magician. It’s important for anyone really – if you have a skill and you do not get positive feedback from it, how long will you continue with that skill? Seriously? Probably not very long. It is important (and this was the beginning thought of this post) to practice your magic before performing.

Tearing the magician down

I thought about this as I bought a new effect and I wanted to perform it but I haven’t perfected it yet and I was imagining what would happen if I had to perform this incredible effect and mess it up – I would not get reactions such as: “Wow!” or “Incredible!” In fact I would have let my audience down because they are expected to be swept away to a place where the impossible seems possible. And that will lower my credibility as a magician. Messing up to an extent lowers your credibility as a magician.

Magicians are humans. They make mistakes but you don’t want to use that as an excuse to not practice your magic properly before performing.  You do not want to ruin your reputation on making a silly mistake. And making a mistake during an effect is embarrassing, regardless of how you clean-up or cover it up. But as they say: “shit happens” and so as a magician you are sometimes confronted with making a mistake – it all depends on how you handle it. Here are some tips I have learned over the years:

1. Own your errors.

Accept the fact that you made a mistake. If you can cover it up without the audience knowing then great, do it. But be sure to go over the effect and work on the error.

2. Honesty  

People don’t like to be lied to. So if you make a mistake and you can’t cover it up or side-step it, then be a man, admit it and move on. Don’t lie to your spectators. They will respect you more if you treated them like adults and just admitted it.

3. Don’t let it get to you

How you react to the fault, will ultimately determine how the spectators’ react. For example: If you drop a TT and the spectator sees it, looks at you and you display a look of loss because your bill change is now ruined; you can either act like a fool and lie to them “nope, I never dropped that. Na-uh” or you can keep going at the mistake “I’m so sorry, this never happens, please forgive me, I practiced hard, my mom loved this trick, pretend you never saw it, I really am a good magician” or you can say something funny like: “Boy who turned gravity on today? Or “Golly, even magicians lose their thumbs sometimes!” Pick it up, put it in your pocket and move onto another effect. If you chose the last option, the spectator will know you made a mistake, but you are confident and funny and so they will not let it ruin the effect.

2 personal stories:

  1. I was performing for some matrics in Israel in January of this year and I was doing my cups and balls. Now I have done the cups and balls for years and as it so happened I dropped the ball (magicians know which ball I am referring to), the matrics knew I had cheated them, I laughed at it, told them I’m continuing whether they like it or not; I resumed my performance and in the end when I revealed my final loads my audience completely forgot about the error and clapped their hands off!
  2. In 2004, I was at Bnei Akiva camp and I was participating in a talent show. I was going to an awesome effect where cards from two decks of different colours were going to swap places and there were signed cards… it’s beautiful. However when I called my spectators up they shuffled the decks without me knowing and when I got to the part where I needed to use the decks – my setups were ruined. I was seventeen years old, so embarrassed, apologised and walked off the stage. I had a spare pack of cards but I was so embarrassed I never even realised.

We learn from mistakes. Try not to react how I did in example two. Be confident, move forward and remember how you react will determine how your spectators react. Mistakes happen but try to avoid them, practice until you can do it blindfolded.

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Magical Conference with Eric Jones

It has been a long time since I last posted something. Apologies goes out to all my regular readers – I wrote some very tough exams but they are out of the way and now I can get back to what I love doing most – magic.

On Sunday 27 October (in the middle of my exam Week-O-Hell) I attended a conference hosted at the College of Magic, with the one-and-only Eric Jones! Now I was looking forward to this like a giddy kid the week before Christmas waiting to see what presents he got under the tree. I was so excited. I made sure I studied enough during the week so on Sunday I can enjoy the conference.

It started off with a breakfast in Groot Constantia, with beautiful mountains and grassy areas. It was a scorcher of a day and not a drop of wind. There were roughly 25 of us at the breakfast with Eric. Being Kosher I had breakfast at home and just snuck a yogurt in as my snack. Some of breakfast looked quite delicious: poached eggs on hash browns with salmon looked yum; I guess I have been brainwashed but bacon,beans, eggs and sausage does not appeal to my taste buds! Anyway I digress.

What I found so interesting was that at breakfast the majority of talk was not about magic. If you were a bystander having breakfast, you would not have thought that there were 25 magicians at the table. We were chatting about iPhones, safari (because Eric was going on Safari after the conference) and other random things. It was actually a pleasure. Not to mention that this conference not only attracted people from Cape Town, but in fact all over South Africa. It was lovely to meet new people from Durban (even Jewish!) and Johannesburg.

My friend’s Graeme Bunce and Kyle Grey were asked to lift Eric to the College after breakfast. They thought it would be better if Eric went with me because I missed yesterday’s sessions (due to it being Shabbat). It was such a humbling experience to just chat about magic with a legend. The drive was too quick! I should have taken the wrong route or gotten lost. Haha. I found in my first encounter with Eric that he is warm, caring, and humbling, a real gentleman. He is a big shot in the magic world, but I never got any inkling of an ego (link to post).

He gave a superb lecture. He discussed some nuances regarding certain effects and taught a variety of effects – from coins, to cards, gimmicks, no gimmicks, and at the end he had some merchandise that was for sale. I could have bought it all – a part of me wanted to, but in the end I bought a great utility device (Twizted – buy it from Eric here) that I will no doubt use all the time!

I find in magic conferences, the magician wants to get through as much material as possible because he wants his students to learn as much as possible – however there is just not enough time to go through everything adequately enough for everyone to have learned the routine properly. So I sit now and try and remember what I learned and I suppose that’s the fun of it.

Some of my highlights were learning The Passless Pass, Ishkabibble production, watching and learning Audio Coins (clip below), an incredible coins across routine, a beautiful colour-change and nifty more advanced two card transposition. But I must say sitting with Eric during lunch and talking about Jewish weddings and customs and just chilling was such a great highlight. I often wonder with movie actors what they must be like out of the movies, around friends and family, you know, living a normal life – and I guess I got to see that little side with Eric – in my car and during lunch.

 

I hope this will not be our last encounter and I look forward to more magic that Eric put out. Thanks College of Magic for organising this great event and to Eric for sharing in his knowledge!

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