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JAQK Dec 9 '14



                On  August 28th, 2013 I got the privilege of interviewing David Regal.  Over the course of 30 minutes and 11 seconds I was able to ask about his beginnings in magic, philosophies, mentors, and approach.  I know it was 30 minutes and 11 seconds because that’s how long the recording said it was (which I planned to share as a podcast).  However, when attempting to listen to the file……..silence.  When plugging the file into audio editing software, no sound waves could be digitally seen, and so the heartache of the breakdown of technology.  Despite several efforts by this author and the software company, to which this author utilized, that file is nonexistent.  So unless I can get someone in the NSA to provide me with their recording of that interview, it will never be heard.  Instead of floundering in the frustration of such a loss, your author has decided to document as much material as could be obtained (because the majority of exact quotes have been lost to a summation in thine own noodle).


Reeling in Regal:


                First of all, speaking with David reminded me of talking to an attending physician (whom I regularly work with in an emergency department).  He had that prose, poise and confidence in his speech which immediately makes one take him seriously (even though he is seriously funny).  However, I did not pick up any of the negative components of the aforementioned example of the physician.  He is quite easy to talk to, even if you are nervous when interviewing him (which of course I know nothing about).

                David Regal grew up in Newton Massachusetts where a neighbor friend of his was into magic and happened to have a copy of Tannen’s Catalog.  For those of you who don’t know, Tannen’s Catalog was frequently a 700+ page hard covered book in which dreams were made.  Or as David compared it: to a dirty magazine which was viewed at the edge of the bed with flashlight in hand.  However, those dreams were able to manifest into realities as this friend’s father regularly worked in New York City.  This allowed young David to spend time and learn magic at various “joke shops” (Little Jack Horner’s Joke Shop and another one which the name escapes me).  However, David did not appear to be the normal youth studying magic, as he was reading “adult” magic books (i.e. Al Baker). 

Even at an early age David was inventing his own effects.  As I was spouting off how much I enjoyed his color changing deck, he told me that was an idea that he came up with when he was only 15 years old.  He states for years he always felt it should be printed on a poker deck, and one day finally bit the financial bullet to purchase a large run.  You can get one of those decks from David HERE!

                Eventually David went to Emerson College for acting.  It is during this time that he fell out of magic, focusing on other areas of his life.  After graduating David became a part of Chicago City Limits.  Chicago City limits is a improv comedy troupe, in fact the oldest in New York City.  One of the fans of this troupe was the great Meir Yedid.  This is where David and Meir met.

                David spoke of when he got back into magic that he fell much harder into it then he did previously.  This led him to study and learn much more advanced sleight of hand, and one evening he invited Meir to watch him perform.  Apparently, the performances went well and the audience reaction was the way one would hope for it to be.  It was at this time David was feeling pretty good, and proud of the accomplishment of performing advanced sleight of hand.  He then asked his friend, Meir, how he liked it, and the response was not expected:  “David when you perform improv you’re great, but when you pick up a deck of cards you’re just like every other magician” (I’m not sure if I remember the quote exactly, again if you know anyone in the NSA who can get me a copy of that interview, that would be great).



                It would be easy for one to get highly discouraged and defensive about such a statement.  However, David Regal has an amazing gift to remain open and flexible.  It’s because of this wonderful quality that he re-evaluated his approach to magic.  I felt the need to ask him how fast the switch occurred from being like “every other magician” and becoming something different.  He told me “a long time” and went to speak of how it’s a continuing process and it is that process he finds most appealing.  Another wonderful quality of this magician!

                David is a puzzle solver, that’s not his words but mine.  He did speak of how much he enjoys the actual process of figuring something out, and stated he may enjoy that even more than the actual performance.  He says that at magic swaps, he usually takes two hundred dollars with him and buys a bunch of two dollar effects.  He then returns home with a couple of bags of magic items (which he calls “Divorce in a bag”) and studies them, coming up with new ideas.  If you know David, you know that he is still married.  So how does he maintain his marriage when engaging in practices such as bringing home divorce inducing bags?  Nope, it’s not another one of his amazing magic effects.  Instead he sells them on ebay after he has utilized their ability to inspire new ideas (and so another lesson I need to take note of to make my wife happier).


David on Harry Lorayne:


                One of the things I most wanted to talk to David about was his Mentorship with Harry Lorayne.  Before David met Harry he was a big fan.  He spoke of his love of Harry’s book “Close Up Card Magic” which is amazing book, and can still be purchased.  It was while speaking with Meir Yedid that he spoke of his admiration of the man.  Low and behold, Meir knew Harry and arranged a meeting.     

                Fast forward to “the cafeteria”, Rebuen’s and the Magic Towne House.  Not only did David get to spend time with Harry, but he also spent time with Eric Decamps and Peter Kougasian.  However, let me get back to Harry.  David spoke that he has never seen a magician captivate an audience of laymen with a deck of cards like Harry does.  Apparently Harry would pull out a deck of cards, which had looked like they had been ravaged and in a case that was falling apart.  He would then perform, and people were (and still are when he performs) astounded.  Over time, David made the realization that he should pay attention to how Harry was able to captivate an audience in such a way.  What was it that Harry was doing with the deck of cards that made him so effective?  At what point did that excitement invade the spectator?  Upon conscious observation David made a surprising revelation:  “the audience leaned forward even before the cards came out of the box”.  It wasn’t the cards that were captivating, it was Harry himself!

                David’s relationship with Harry continued, and many different effects of David’s were published in Harry’s Apocalypse (a monthly publication).  At this time David was not going to conventions and was fairly unknown in the world of magic. David posed the question to Harry about possibly publishing a book of his original effects, and so the book “Star Quality” was released.  Over time this has been accepted by the magic community, and although it didn’t immediately become a huge hit, that didn’t seem to bother David.  A common theme with Mr. Regal, is that it is all about the process.  

                As we know David has become widely accepted in the magic community as a performer and inventor of effects.  He has even released a book on his methods appropriately named "Approaching Magic", a book which took him six years to complete.  When he is asked when his next book will come out, he remarks “the last one took six years, I don’t know if there will be another one”.  Again, it’s about the process for Mr. Regal.  Did I mention that he likes the process?



David on a Common Misunderstanding:


                One of the things that I have found in common with my favorite performers is that they emphasize on perfecting an effect, as opposed to accumulating a bunch of “tricks”.  David mentioned this same philosophy.  However he does state that we all go through a similar metamorphosis (magic pun intended) of collecting information. 


                David also spoke of how some magicians are quick to shun something because they know a little bit about it.  He gave an example of a beginner who is watching someone exhibit a magic effect, and the moment they realize there has been a sleight used they are familiar with there is a tendency to think “oh, I know how that’s done” and move on.   This is a real shame when it comes to magic, because such versatile effects/utility devices may be overlooked and not utilized.  He gave the example of watching Franz Haray perform.  He says that this great “mega” illusionist who “killed” with a thumb tip. 



David’s Regular Life:

                David currently lives in California and is a member of the Magic Castle.  Not only is he a member of the Castle, but he is on the Board of Trustees.  Some of you may not know that David is primarily a writer and producer of television shows.  Some highlights include: writing for Everybody Loves Raymond, and was also the head writer of the Rugrats.   Again, it appears to all be about the process for Mr. Regal.  He spoke of how when one episode is completed, you now have to solve the puzzle (“undoing knots”) to make a logical jump to the next episode.  And so it is, and so it goes for Mr. Regal in seemingly everything he does. 

                I do want to end this article with a wonderful quote David shared with me from the great Johnny Thompson.  I had mentioned to David that the majority of members at MagiBook are amateurs.  I must have used somewhat of a negative connotation with this, as it inspired David to share Johnny’s thoughts on the beauty of the Amateur magician “I retain the enthusiasm for magic of an Amateur”.  So let us all retain that sort of enthusiasm for this wonderful craft.

To learn more about David, please go to his website at:



When I first started to perform mentalism the moves terrified me. I could not do a billet switch to save my life. It was not as crisp as the moves and slights I used in normal magic.what changed it all for me was I started thinking of the billet as something other then it was. Yep I started seeing them as coins. I could switch a coin with easy and fluidity. So the billet became a coin and it became easy for me to change it. This turned mentalism into magic tricks for me. I could do it now!


Then the other guilt slipped in slowly over time. I became so proficient at making the moves that I stopped thinking about them and started thinking about my presentations. This took my effects out of the range of mere magic tricks and slowly changed them, morphed them into magic. Not a trick but magic in the eyes of those that watched me perform. They started seeing what I do as real.....


think about this for a moment. One moment your performing magic tricks then something changes and in the eyes of your viewers you no longer tricking them. Your showing them actual magic. Uhhhh what? You believe this is real? No no im still tricking you!


No matter what I did they would not believe that I was performing something other then the real thing. This terrified me to no end. I have seen the other magi giving disclaimers. Telling us all that it is wrong to fool your audience into believing what you do is real. I did not want to be the devil! But they still took what I did at face value and attributed something arcane and powerful to it.



So why? Why do they want to believe what I do is real? What is it about what I do that makes it so powerful to them that they will have faith in it no matter what I tell them?......


its simple really when you take time to think about it. They want something to believe in. they have an innate need to think of something that is bigger then themselves. They need something to explain the unexplainable. They want to believe in magic.....

they want to believe in ME!?!?!??!


there it is...the guilt. The reason I have been feeling guilty about it

all. I saw it as they believe I was something special. That I had this magical power to help them. When in reality it was not me it is the magic. What I am performing is special for them. It gives them emotional experiences that they want in their lives. The world has turned to a disposable place. Nothing is of value really any more. They want to go back to a time when magic existed. They want to believe that they can be part of something that is exciting and beautiful. Its not me its the experience that is magical for them. So rather then try to convince them that I am faking it I decided to ride the flow of magic with them. We join in the moment and fly to that magical place where everything is all right. Everything will work out. The magic will not hurt them, it will not tell them anything that may harm them. They are trusting in the magic in ways that go beyond logic and mundane. How do I beat the guilt? Simple, I take the trust they put in me and give it in return. We join in the moment and share the magic for what it is. Beautiful, emotional, simple, exciting, magical......


I have earned their trust and as its sacred keeper I never violate it.


just some thoughs.






Michael Jun 4 '13
5th Featured

I've finally done my 2nd Children's Birthday Party.  Actually, in reality, it's my first in an external venue (at one of the KFC outlets), with mainly people that I do not know.  The first performance I did, I did with my church friends mainly a good number of children that I do know, so it was somewhat less intimidating (or so I thought!)

First, I'll touch on some audience management must-haves I learnt from my first experience.  It is critical to mark out a "magician only" or "stage" area which is out of bounds to the children.  Of course, the more seasoned performers already knew that....  So I armed myself with duct tape, and marked out the area on the floor.  Before even the show started, it took some time to keep reminding the children to stay behind the line.  Some children even played around by hopping over the line and back repeatedly... geez...  but with enough reminders, I'm glad the no children crossed the line even after the show when I was at the table behind eating.  (I was watching the area though.... )

Now for the routine, I've made some last minute changes to it because I didn't have enough time to practice some of the routines. Sadly to say, I think I didn't do justice to some of the effects... but I think the children still enjoyed it nonetheless. 

The magic word.  I was wondering what magic words to use, and I asked the children if they knew of any magic words.  The usual like abracadabra, hocus pocus came out... and somewhere I heard someone said "Banana"... so I declared the magic word of the day to be "Bouncing Bananas!"  Said with Gusto, it somehow amused the children very much! I must say... I kinda like this magic word and might stick with it! 

Here's the routine after I did some warm-ups with the children.

  1. PIP CARD.  This is the one where the number of dots on the cards kept changing.  I did it using a "eye-test" premise and also as a "to see if you are paying attention" premise.  I think it built up the momentum nicely.
  2. Sponge Ball.  For this effect, I invited a child to participate. I started with on sponge ball, and split it into two.  Then I placed one sponge ball and asked her to hold it tightly, and then magically cause the ball in my hand to travel to hers. I pull out one more sponge ball, and asked how many sponge balls would I get when I add 2 sponge ball from her hand to mine.  I'll get various answsers, then I'll say we have none, because we only have 1 square cube. This routine played well (children always love sponge balls), and while I inserted this segment at the last minute, I'm glad I did. 
  3. Magic Coloring Book (with disppearing crayons, breakaway fan, nested wand). I did Danny Orlean's Magic colouring book routine.  For this I invited 2 children to help me (you can see them in my photo album) and I think it played very well.  The disappearing crayons created some gasps, and the revelation that the colours have magically jumped onto the book produced some nice reactions too. Learning point one, one part of the routine is to be surprised when the coloring book is magically coloured by coloured in a messy manner (i.e. not within the lines).  The child I invited was a little too young (almost 4 yrs old) and that was exactly how he would have colored it, so there was no surprise.  Getting a slight older child might have helped create the surprise alittle more. The breakaway fan worked well, but I think I need to work on acting surprised more... the children were amused but didn't react much.  Oh... but for my nested wands, they were laughing hilariously! The child ended up holding 4 wands, and waving over the coloring book to fix it.  Of course, the audience all clapped for the boy after that.  :)  I like this routine and will definately do it again. 
  4. Gypsy Thread.  Danny Orleans used this in his routine and I thought I give it a shot.  The objective was to get the children to settle down a little after all the fun with the disappearing crayons, coloring book, breakaway fan and nested wands.  The effect played well, and I got the children's attention. I was worried that it might bore the children, but it was alright!  Getting the children to shout "BOUNCING BANANAS" when attaching the ball of thread, and when revealing the restoration was a blast.  Actually, I think the whole routine wouldn't be the same without the children shouting the magic word.  :) It really creates participation and gets them feeling involved.  A wonderful thing this magic word is!
  5. Do-As-I-Do with rope.  This is the same one I did at the first kids show I did.  But what I did differently, was to invite someone's daddy to join me. (You can see this in the photo album).  This worked much better than when I did it the first time.  Firstly, getting an adult to come up means they can follow the steps much more easily, secondly, the children enjoy much more seeing a adult being unable to do what the magician can; as compared to if I had a child instead.  I think it was also good because this time, I got one of the parents involved.  We know how the parents all just end up doing their own things during the show. 
  6. Professors Nightmare.  I love this effect, and adults I've done it to always have their eyes widened in wonder.  For the children though, I think I did it too quickly.  I didn't get much reaction, and I also forgot to give the children more opportunities to shout the magic word.  It was like the magic was happening quickly and all without the children having to really participate.  That was a mistake I think, and the reason for it is, I was so used to doing this routine for adults, that I went on auto-pilot and so it didn't really play so well with the children.  I need to re-look this routine to make it better for the children, or otherwise, it may have to go out... but I do love this routine... it's so visual.... haha! 
  7. Ball and Vase.  What was I thinking when I added this!  Actually, the children kinda liked it. The reason that I did this was because I wanted to introduce my "invisible friend" in my next effect.  Simple and sometimes over exposed, it was a risk to do this.  I didn't have anyone shouting that they knew how it was done fortunately, and the younger ones thoroughly enjoyed it.
  8. The Thing.  After I did the ball and vase, I asked the children if they wanted to know how it was done.  And then I introduced my "invisible friend". Overall, this was a very, VERY short routine, and I do think I need alot more practice with it.  But I'm glad the children were entertained and some even come up after the show to see my invisible friend again.  :)   One nice thing that happened was that I took my time to "materalise" the thing.  I said "hello" about 3-4 times, and one the adults started shouting "Hello" louder, saying I was too soft perhaps.  While it might have been abit disruptive, it gave me the opportunty to look "distractedly" at her and materialise "the thing" at the same time.  So the appareance of "the thing" without my awareness of it got the children quite excited. I thought that was a nice touch.  :) 
  9. Miser's Dream.  I did Baxt's routine for this, and I actually forgot to do the last phase of the routine where the child picks a coin out of the air and throws it into the bucket.  In my opinion, that's probably best part of the routine but I forgot about it somehow!  It still ended well (not as well as I hoped), and the jumbo coin was quite the novelty with them. 


And so that's the full routine!  On hindsight.... I think I was doing too many effects, and some of the effects were rather rushed (like the prof nightmare, the thing) and I think that was also one reason that I missed out one phase of the Misers Dream routine.  I definately need more practice!  But after that the host got some feedback from the guests, and everyone came but with great feedback!  Somewhat Ego boosting I have to admit. 

Some other items to touch on before I forget:

  • Audio - I used the PAS-8000 by florida magic.  I think it worked very well and was extremely easy to set up. While testing it at home, I got some white noise while using the wireless headset, but I didn't notice it at all during the show, so I think it works great on the ground.  It really adds a touch of professionalism to it, and also prevents me from having to shout to get the children's attention.  In comparision with the first show I did where I didn't have an audio system, I think it makes all the difference in the world in helping with controlling of the environment.

  • Attire - I was wondering what to wear. I don't have a customised vest, or jacket, or anything.  So I just quickly popped on a jacket with a graphic-T, and a necklace (yes, I'm vain....haha).  Looking at the pictures, I actually rather like the look.  Any feedback on how to make myself look better is welcomed! :) 

  • Profile of Children for this show - There were about 20-25 children, aged between 4 to 10 (estimated), and of course I have the adults and some older sibblings in the teens.  I had only two teens there who were very well behaved, thankfully! :) 

I end this blog post with conversation the host had with one of the children that she shared with me.  And I paraphrase.

Host: Did you enjoy the birthday party?
Child: Yes, but I don't like the magician.
Host: Oh, why, did you like the show and the magic?
Child: Yes, I like the show and the magic.  But I didn't get any prize, so I don't like the magician.
Host: <Laugh>

What happened was I was giving out some small gifts for participation in the magic show and also in some games later on.  The child wanted some prize but was usually too slow, so other children got the prizes instead.  I know this means I got to work on how to ensure every child has something at the end of the show and the games..... suggestions welcomed! 

Names like John Scarne and Ed Marlo mean nothing to most people, but to an 18 year old kid in a coffee shop, these names mean more than most you will see on E News or BBC simply because of what they call their day job: magic, cardistry, illusions, call it what you will it puts a smile on this kids face faster than 'unlimited refills' does, this kid in the coffee shop was once just an onlooker, a layman, yet with dedication and time he now entertains an admirable crowd with nothing but a pack of cards and quick hands.
Lord "Bret" Illusion Mar 5 '13 · Rate: 4 · Comments: 2 · Tags: magic, creative writing, portfolio work

The shiny, glimmering metallic shackles dangling while the reflections of light blinds my eyes.  A voice calls out “you call it a trick one more time and I’m going to cuff you with these for one hour to that pole, or until you can figure out how to get out of them.”  Hence, my first visit to a magic shop and the last time I referred to truly magical effects as “tricks.”

Considering magic as mere “tricks” is a slander to the art form.  It provides such degrading qualities as insinuating that these displays of wonder are simple and require little to no skill.  Magic is unique in several different ways, one of which is slanderous terms to describe various aspects of our art.  Terms such as “trick” dress some of our performances as nothing more than a challenge to the spectator.  I don’t recall ever meeting someone who WANTS to be the one TRICKED.  I give full credit for this type of ingrained behavior to the ego.

It’s simple really; no one wants to appear less knowledgeable than someone else.  Referring to magic as a “trick” immediately sets up the terms and conditions of the upcoming interaction as you against them.  That’s why many performers will have spectators (especially males all vying to be the alpha) try to pull one over on the performer.

Now it’s time for a simple equation:  If you try to trick me, but I in turn trick you, that equals I’m way too clever for you to fool.  And nobody wants to be a fool.

Can we blame the spectator for engaging in this natural response?  You’re DARN RIGHT WE CAN!!!  And we do.  But is it wise to do so?  If you ask your career it would more than likely beg you to not be an idiot.

So how do we combat this without destroying what little rapport we have with the spectator?  I suggest that if we want our performances respected, than we too must respect our art.  It is up to us to set the stage, tone and pacing.  A fairly simple way to do this is to use “CONDITIONING” in conjunction with ANCHORING (an NLP technique) to help set in triggers to pull out the desired response.  Okay, maybe not so simple without study on the subject.  So let me give you some things you can set in motion immediately.

It is wise to choose the willing participant and not the person who is going to try to sabotage the effect.  Most of us amateurs feel like we have something to prove and therefore run head on like two rams knocking noodles to prove dominance.  This type of behavior can only lead to a headache!  But what to do with the difficult spectator (this will typically be men due to our innate nature to be the alpha)?

There are several ways in which to set the alpha male at ease.  For instance, I sometimes gently nudge a spectator to give the impression as if the two of us are “in on it” together.  Dai Vernon would go as far as telling the spectator to not worry about figuring out the effect, because he was going to let them in on the workings later (to which he did no such thing).  One could also use witty one-liners that turn the spectators against the troublemaker.  For example, we all have had the individual who will lie about the identity of the card that they have previously chosen.  A simple solution is to look around to the other spectators and state “who are you going to believe?  I’m only THE magician” (this is based off of a series of ideas Tom Mullica posted in his lecture notes in the mid-1990′s).

It all really boils down to what your character is, but that’s shuffling down a different sidewalk.

And so it goes…….

5th Featured
A little background here, I'd been playing around with magic for quite awhile, and mainly do close-up. Recently, I did some magic during a mission trip to Sri Lanka for a group of about 50-60 kids which went quite well, so I thought this round would be better. It turned out quite differently though. 

My friend asked me if I was available to do some simple tricks for the daughter's birthday party, I'd have about 10-12 children aged 3-7 years old. And I was doing the performance in the living room. I know most of the children personally (mostly friends' children) and we're pretty familiar with each other. There were a number of children who were guests and were people I'm meeting for the first time. 

So before the party started, we were playing with the children, and making some balloon sculptures while waiting for the rest to turn up. When everyone was here, we started with same games (pass the parcel and stuff), before it was my turn. I prepared a number of stuff, but I ended up doing the following. 

1. How to tie a rope without letting go of the ends (by crossing the arms first). This was a warmup piece that didn't play very well. I intended it to be a puzzle which they could learn and show their friends, so I issued a challenge, got some of the older kids up, but promptly lost their attention. So I got on the next one. 

2. Do as I do with the rope, where only the magician get's the knot. I had the two older kids from the first trick attempt this, but it also promptly fell flat on it's face too as the children had difficulty following the movements. So I cut it short, and proceeded to do the next trick which I thought would be better. 

3. Professors Nightmare. After the "nightmare" I had, I sent the children back to sit down, and promptly did professor's nightmare. I handed the ropes of 3 lengths to the children to take a look, and then did the routine. The first routine where there was a moment of amazement and some applause. I was relieved this went quite well after the outcome of the first two items. 

4. Cups and Balls with Breakaway Wand. I pulled out the table, and the cups and realised it was instantly recognisable! And the children knew what was going to happen. I got them to stand up incase I flashed the extra ball, but that might have been a mistake because they got REALLY close to the table! At this point, another family came into the house (the door was behind me), so I turned around just to say "WELCOME!", I turned back and saw my stack of cups in the hands of one kid who opened the cups and dropped the 3 balls on the floor, another kid grabbed my breakaway wand and somehow the key piece dropped out, so he was staring at the broken wand. All that in the time I took for me to just turn my head and say "WELCOME". With my breakaway wand already "broken", I played along and acted shocked, then proceeded to get another normal wand out for the trick. The trick then went alright, because they knew what to expect, but it really did feel quite chaotic at that time. In between, I'd tried to ask them to sit down, and realised they can't see the cups, and asked them to stand again. At this stage, I thought I pretty much lost the audience and made a full out of myself. So I moved on to the next one. 

5. Misers' Dream (Baxt, a boy and a bucket). Boy, I tell you... I thank God (And Robert Baxt!) for this! The children were still standing, and at the start of the trick, kept wanting to look into the bucket to see the number of coins. That really wasn't a problem, and got them really close up and engaged. The children were roaring with laughter when the coins started falling out of the kid's ears, armpits, and bottom. When I went into the "Grab a coin from the air, make a fist and drop the coin in the bucket". The boy got so amused he just kept doing it repeatedly without my instruction until I almost ran out of coins (I played along of course)! So fortunately, the show ended with a high. Those who have not tried Baxt's routine, I highly recommend it.
Alex Wong Feb 19 '13 · Comments: 10 · Tags: insight, performing, children, party
5th Featured
Over the weekend, had performed some coin tricks for a little boy of about 6-7 years of age. One of the effects performed near the end of the routine was the coin that falls upwards. After I did it, the child just stood staring into blank space for about 5-10 seconds (with my hands frozen in position). I had some friends around who were watching, and the 5-10 sec does feel pretty long. After the 5-10 seconds (which to me was a rather awkward pause), he let out a loud "Wow!" at which everyone burst out laughing. :) 

On hindsight, the long (I think 5-10 seconds is pretty long to wait for a reaction...) wait before the reaction actually made the reaction itself seems better. Lesson for the day, is that giving time for the audience to react is extremely important. Some might need a longer pause, but it is well worth it.
Alex Wong Feb 19 '13 · Tags: insight, performing
The Art of the Lie (oddities):

Oh the guilt! The magician’s GUILT! The horrible blinking of the eyes when telling a fabrication….. the treacherous need to look away when performing a slight. Oh, how the art of the lie has suffered its true potential: an aid for truthful expression. And so the little or big lie gets lost to confusion, so sad in its pitiful malformation of existence.

It’s not that the lie is a bad thing; it’s just that it’s been perverted and overused. We shouldn’t be filled with guilt when offering a semi untruth to create a miracle. But many times we cringe at the very notion of offering up a half truth.

Ironic isn’t it? We do this daily without hesitation, but during the honest performance of deceit we feel guilt for our presentation. And so it goes, in our sad little expression of self assuredness in our presentation of deceit. But the spectator knows best, and all of the smart banter in the world can’t successfully argue the layman’s point of view.

It has taken me years upon years to become comfortable in the art of deceit. Even still I find myself having to consciously combat my instinct of honesty. Many times I have felt lost, not sure of my performance because I couldn’t stand to look at the deceit I was offering. I did not realize that the thing I was offering to the spectator was the wonderment of “not knowing”. “Not knowing” and the unknown is an awesome thing to produce in a spectator’s mind. Wonderment is amazing, that is where creativity can manifest the impossible into the probable.

One of the ways I was able to combat my selfish need to be honest, was to force myself to focus on the moment at hand. For example, I have a horrible time not blinking or turning away (in an extreme exaggerated way) when executing a slight. I have a tendency to be completely unnatural which only ruins the effect. So part of my repertoire of practice is to force myself to look at my hands when performing a slight, so that I don’t cringe, or give away that something deceitful has happened. The way I could convince myself to do this, was to create an internal monologue telling myself that I am witnessing a miracle, not that I am creating one through trickery. However, I do not do this during performance. I get to the point where I don’t even think about my hands, and allow the naturalness through preparedness shine through.

I now practice this method daily, and it has greatly improved my performances. It has also improved my confidence in performing because I get myself into the mindset that I’m actually creating these miracles. As the great Antony Gerard would say, we do not perform tricks, tricks are something a dog does. What we do is perform magic, which is an art, and takes countless hours of practice and dedication in order to present this wonderful art. Just as one would study a musical instrument, we must practice, learn our scales, understand the theory of composition, different methods of presentation, tempo, pacing, ect… However, that is a different topic all together. And so it goes……..

Here is a little something I had published at the secret arts journal, and a medical magazine:

The case load is mounting, and I’m told I’m getting one of those “difficult cases.” It turns out to be a young 15 year old male who is currently on probation for attempted murder.  I remember he was number 37 in my case load list.  I was only a feeble minded bachelor’s level social worker then, working for a non-profit whilst the state’s economy was in such disarray that they had suspended our budget.  As a result they thought it best to not pay the employees of the aforementioned non-profit agency. Regardless, it was determined that we would continue to work with these at risk youths because they had been dropped too many times before, and one more adult failing them might be enough to crack the already fragile shell of what was left of some of these children.

However, you wouldn’t have guessed a fragile shell on this latest addition to my case load (we will call him Jordan).  Jordan, although at the very beginning of his 15th year of life, was taller than most adults, had biceps bigger than most people’s heads, and a look of solid stone.  I always know these interactions are going to go well, especially when I’m introduced to someone by a principal or parole officer for the first time, and the response is “what the F*** does this Cracker want?”  This is not unlike the response that Jordan gave me.  When it was explained that working with me was part of his probation, I learned of Jordan’s ability to not utter a single word.  Cue the awkwardness of mandated therapy via probation.

It would be easy to think, “What am I doing, I’m not even getting paid anymore, and I’m surviving on ramen freakin’ noodles.”  In fact, it was so easy to think that, that I did in fact allow those thoughts to filtrate through my own noodle.  At this time, I was living in Michigan, and I was literally picking up cans and plastic bottles to recycle, because in Michigan those items are ten cents a piece upon return, and ramen noodles were a mere 15 cents per bag.  So if you do the math, and I’m sure you have……n’t, three cans and or bottles equates to a feast for the ages (or two bags of ramen, if you don’t think about tax).  But this was all a fleeting thought, because I loved working with these kids.  I have a knack for working with these exceptionally challenging individuals.

It has become clear to me that this young man is not going to engage in “traditional” tactics.  Imagine the shock of Jordan, as I pulled out of a deck of playing cards, and began shuffling them.  It’s then I start saying, “You know, most people think that this is just a simple deck of cards, but it’s much more complex than that.  I find cards are much like people.  So many hidden secrets that no one could possibly fully understand, which only makes them that much more interesting.”

I then ask Jordan if he knows how many cards are in a deck of cards.  True to form, Jordan remains silent.  I then ask Jordan if he knows how many weeks are in a year.  Here’s something to know about Jordan:  is he scary?  You’re darn right he is.  Is he intimidating?  Without a shadow of any doubt.  Is he stupid?  Not in the least, and Jordan didn’t want to be perceived as so.  In fact he almost killed someone in a fight for essentially calling him stupid.  I knew all of this before we began.  I also knew that Jordan wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to answer “52”.  I get goose bumps even thinking about it, the individual refusing to engage or talk has just done both inadvertently.

I continue, not willing to relinquish momentum.  “How many suits are there in a deck of cards?”  Again, Jordan attempts to hold steadfast and says nothing.  I ask, “How many seasons are there in a year?”  Now, Jordan didn’t exactly answer, but what he did was much better, he genuinely smiled.  With a smile back, I continue on my rampage “You know there are two colors in a deck of cards, red for day and black for night.  Check this out, if you add up all of the cards together, the ace for 1, jack for 11, queen for 12, and king for 13 you get 364…………..if we add one for the joker that’s 365, the same number of days there are in a year.”  Jordan’s response, “Why are there two jokers then?”

I now know that I have reeled him in.  He’s engaging with me, and I now have him asking ME questions.  We are exactly where I want to be.  I don’t give him the answer, very much mirroring therapy, but simply state, “One more joker would all add up to 366, what’s that make you think of?”  The lights in his eyes turned on, a twinge of excitement in his voice, and the proud stature of this child in a man’s body proudly expressed “A leap year.”  From there, our relationship was fantastic.

We continued to utilize playing cards, especially different magic effects, in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy to work on different issues.  The amazing power of displacing such personal issues, into these pasteboards, into an artful expression of magic was not truly known to me until three months after working with each other, when he came to our session and had been beaten up.

I asked Jordan what had happened, and he stated a fight broke out at his school.  I asked how he got beat up, he stated that he didn’t fight back, and just focused on getting away from the conflict.  When I asked why he didn’t defend himself, he told me “If I hurt my hands, I couldn’t create magic.” This child who was once on probation for attempted murder, now learned that those same hands that almost killed another human being, were now meant to create magic.

John Jan 24 '13 · Rate: 4 · Comments: 3 · Tags: blogs, john midgley, magibook, the glass violin, siaz, perceive reality, philosophy, therapy