The other Sunday, during the opening sequence of my show, I dropped a dove on the floor…
Still inside the dove bag, it hit the floor with a thud. The animal rights activists wouldn’t be happy.
Neither was I.
I have practiced the production hundreds of times and performed it far more times than I could remember. But the dove slipped from my grip as it emerged from my sleeve. To add agony to the embarrassment, someone caught the mishap on video.
These mistakes humble us. They remind us that we are only humans, that we are only pretend magicians. We don’t have real magic powers to counter the perversity of the universe that causes slip-ups to happen in the show. No matter how meticulous our preparations are, or how seasoned we have become as performers, we are only as good as our last show. In the next performance, accidents can happen to reduce us into bumbling amateurs.
Murphy’s Law expresses this state of affair in exact language. He says, “Anything that can possibly go wrong, does.”
I don’t know who Murphy is, but I believe his Law applies indiscriminately to all manner of magicians, regardless of skills, years of experience, and credentials.
The British stage magician Nevil Maskelyne wrote in 1908: “It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion, such as the production of a magical effect for the first time in public, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Whether we must attribute this to the malignity of matter or to the total depravity of inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is hurry, worry, or what not, the fact remains.” (Wikipedia)
They snarl your fingers (so you can’t palm that coin), they unhinge the illusion box and reveal the crouching assistant in the load chamber, they make your CD jump, so that instead of moving to the beat of Michael Jackson’s Thriller you are forced to dance Tinikling.
Sometimes the gremlins are so mean they not only wreak havoc on the show but also endanger the performer. A famous magician gets mauled by his tiger, an escape artist doing aerial strait jacket escape plunges to the ground, a fire-eater burns his face, and so on.
There are ways to fight these gremlins and to violate Murphy’s Law. My ways won’t assure perfection in all shows, but they will reduce their frequency and thus the embarrassment and risk of failure.
Let me write about those ways some other time. In the meantime, allow me to lick my wounds and detoxify my mind of the psychological trauma that’s weighing me down these past few days.