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I wrote in my earlier posts (Gremlins and Murphy’s Law: When Accidents Mar the Show, Precision Magic) that you can’t completely prevent accidents from happening in your shows. You can prevent it from happening sometime but you can’t prevent it all the time.
In other words, you can only reduce the possibility of its happening but not completely eliminate it.
I believe precision magic is unattainable, especially for magicians like me who are not the epitome of grace, poise and elegance. However, with some techniques, you can cut the risks of accidents and mishaps to acceptable levels.
Here are three ways to do it.
If you practice a routine hard and often enough, you will make all the mistakes during practice sessions. These may include mishaps caused by freaky accidents, the ones so impossible to happen you can’t possibly foresee them.
There’s this apocryphal story about a magician in the Philippines who performed the watch-to-impossible-location trick and did not finish it with the intended happy and amazing resolution.
According to the story, he borrowed a watch from a gentleman in the audience, wrapped it in a newspaper, briefly placed the bundle inside a Change Bag to switch it with another bundle containing broken watch pieces.
He was performing in a bar, and something must have distracted him—somebody moving suddenly in the audience, a flash of light, a pretty girl giggling, or whatever. No one could tell for sure what it was, except that something not present during his practice sessions flustered him.
As a result, he got confused. He did not know which partition of the Change Bag had the watch and which one had the broken pieces. When he took out the bundle from the bag, he was not sure whether it contained the watch or the broken pieces.
He took his chance, though. He got a hammer and smashed it down several times on the newspaper bundle. Imagine his horror when he opened the bundle, and it yielded the borrowed watch, broken into dozens of tiny pieces.
The magician went home that night surrendering his check to the gentleman who owned the watch and spent weeks nursing his smashed ego.
Dress rehearse. Conduct your rehearsal as if you are performing you show live. If you will wear a tuxedo during your show, wear a tuxedo during the rehearsal. Wear also your top hat, head set microphone, jewelry, everything you will wear in the actual show,
I learned the hard way the lesson of not dress rehearsing. After years of performing magic, complacency affected my good judgment. I did not pay attention to my dress rehearsal, and paid a heavy price for it.
I have been practicing a new escape act for the last six months. I have counted the times I’ve done the act in practice—812 times. Yet, when I finally performed the routine for the first time at an event, I could not get out of the restraints as quickly as I could to make the escape incredible. My wrist watch prevented me from slipping my hand out of the restraints. I had to struggle for 30 seconds before I was able to escape when, in practice, I could slip out in two seconds.
What caused the mishap?
Well, during practice and rehearsal, I didn’t wear my wrist watch. In fact I had it always on the table to time how fast I could release myself. I didn’t foresee that the watch, when worn in the wrist, will get in the way of my escape.
Technical check. Once you arrive at the venue, perform a technical check on all your equipment, especially the ones that run on batteries and those that have hinges and movable panels.
You’d be surprise how easily electronic equipment and secret panels of props and boxes will fail during live shows.
Here are some of the mishaps that happened during my shows because I chose to be less vigorous in my technical checks:
- Batteries were not working (they were newly bought, fresh from the plastic container, yet as dry as the desert).
- Sub trunk trap door refused to open because a brief drizzle before the program moistened the hinges and the wood.
- The rabbit in the production box was dead when it appeared.
- The Axtell Drawing would not open its mouth and animate.
- The marking pen would not write. The lighter would not light. The egg was not in the pocket.
- The dove was not loaded in the secret chamber, so when time came for the appearance, nothing happened.
There were many more examples, but I have no intention of mentioning them all and relive my traumatic experience. Let me just say, I have made my point. It’s all up to you realize what this point is.
- Breaking in a Routine (innermagicclub.wordpress.com)
- Precision Magic (innermagicclub.wordpress.com)
- Three Things Magicians Fear Onstage (innermagicclub.wordpress.com)
- Never Apologize for your Deficiencies, Shortcomings and Incompetence (innermagicclub.wordpress.com)