So there I was, standing at the edge of my computer desk. It's a standing desk, but also the main surface I practice card magic on. This time, however, it wasn't meant for practice -- there was a webcam pointed at me and in just a few seconds, Blaise Serra, Jeremy Griffith and one or two other magicians were going to pull me into the live stream, and I would perform magic live!
All performers were given 5 minutes to do their act, and we'd be judged on a few criteria like originality, personality, and the magic effect itself.
When performing a routine for Instagram, my cutoff is 1 minute. I know I can make IGTV videos that go longer, or do an Instagram Live which can be super long, but I go for that 60-second cutoff because it's what you do =P. 5 minutes? Whoa, I could do anything!
I really wanted to do something special though, so I thought of doing a routine I had been practicing recently. It's my version of The Kaplan Torn and Restored Card routine by George Kaplan, found in The Fine Art of Magic.
The original effect itself is easier to describe, so it's like this:
My whole act for this routine is designed around the premise of a torn card being dropped into an envelope and coming back out whole -- with a string running through it. But, to make it a little more entertaining I first talk about when I was a kid and wanted to get into magic, I really wanted, no needed a magic top hat.
"My mom wouldn't get one for me though and insisted I just used my baseball cap instead. The problem was, a top hat was needed to pull out a live bunny. Using a baseball cap, whenever I tried, I just pulled out a picture of a bunny instead." I then reach my hand into the empty baseball cap and pulled on a small envelope with a bunny drawn on it. *magic*
Tossing the hat aside, I say that sometimes it's paper, sometimes envelopes, once it was even a $5 bill. Monopoly money though, so not as great as you'd hope. But whatever came out with that bunny on it would have extra magical properties that would last for a few minutes, it was neat. To demonstrate, I want to attach a leash to my new pet bunny, so I take a small knife and make a slit where you'd normally attach a leash... if it were real... and strung a piece of yarn through it. I show that the yarn goes all the way through the envelope and even pull some out of the middle. No funny business, just your everyday yarn leash on a paper bunny. "The leash is so he doesn't run away while I do the actual magic trick."
I reach back into the baseball cap and produce a deck of cards. No bunny though...
From the deck, a card is selected and torn to pieces. The spectator takes a piece and holds on to it, the rest are "cabbage" for the bunny to eat -- they're dropped into the envelope and it's sealed. Yada, yada, yada, the envelope is torn open and a whole card is pulled out -- string attached and everything! Except one piece is missing, and the piece the spectator's holding matches it perfectly! *magic*
Wouldn't it be awesome if performing a magic trick went exactly as planned? I practiced the whole routine -- further adapted to work with a remote audience -- for a week straight. The reproduction of the card isn't really rocket science, but I went through a full deck of 52 cards (and envelopes) practicing it anyways. I got the entire performance down to about 4 minutes and 30 seconds, which would give me time for delays or to repeat things.
Oh, yeah, right so this was also my first live performance for any type of magic competition. Before this, I've shown family and one or two friends things before and that was it. Yikes!
So there I was, standing at the edge of my computer desk. The edge is important because if you know anything about how producing things from hats works, well, yeah. If you don't know, well, just imagine that said things are right below the edge =P
Unfortunately, I was so excited (or nervous) that while I was introducing the magic baseball cap, I knocked down my entire under-desk setup. There would be no way to reset -- that entire bit was killed. There was no production from the hat. There was no magic bunny story, or bunny at all.
Luckily, I had anticipated the possibility and had a spare envelope ready that didn't have a bunny on it and I went with an improved "well, baseball caps aren't magical, so I went with envelopes instead -- they're easier for people to put cash in!" It was cheesy and not magical, but I never stopped the tempo. I picked up the deck of cards from the floor while talking, an action I don't think anyone really paid attention to so that was good.
The rest of the routine went smoothly. String through envelope, card selected, card destroyed. Card restored. magic
Though, we did run into video delays during the card selection. I was doing a dribble "say stop" selection and even when dribbling slow, the "stop" would always come through by the time the dribble ended. It took 4 tries, I think? If you know how a torn-and-restored effect works, you need a specific card. Do you know how fun it was to force a card in the middle of a deck during multiple dribbles?
But I kept the tempo! The act went on, I carried my personality throughout it, and I had fun with it. I didn't win that round (or even come close to winning), but hey, when you're not good you're not good =P
You know what I felt after my 5 minutes was up? I felt like I had just talked for 5 minutes to show a 30 second magic trick. I can only imagine how the other people watching thought -- "he really strung that one out" or "wow, he must have thought he needed to use the whole 5 minutes"
I am confident (to a point) with the routines I want to show people. I know that there's always a chance I mess up or something goes wrong, but that's what practice is for. That's what outs are for. I always make it a point to at least try to know the different ways a routine can fail so that I can keep things going and make it still appear like it worked -- even if it's improv. However, I failed at it this time around... even though I had the outs.
I took a 5-minute routine that had several magical moments and turned it into a 5 minute routine with a single magical moment at the end. And though the tempo remained, the story was disconnected. What did a magical baseball cap have to do with a card being pulled out of an envelope with a string on it? Ugh.
No, what I should have done when I dropped everything was just done a different routine. I knew there was a possibility that the things would fall and if they did, I had a backup blank envelope. I should have had something else that the hat could have been used for. Or, incorporated it later into the routine itself.
Also, the card selection. I really love DaOrtiz's saying that the trick doesn't start until after the card is selected. In a dribble force, more often than not even when it's an in-person presentation, the first dribble isn't the real one. It's the demo with an "I'm going to drop the cards like this, and you just say stop whenever you want," and then the force is made on the second one. In a remote performance, there aren't many ways to have the spectator select a card. I'm not really good with the spectator peek yet, I've never really practiced it, so I'm not comfortable with that. But a dribble force? I can do that thing all day long. Except, when the video lags. I've thought of a good "remote" out with that, after the second dribble if it doesn't work, just say "here, we'll just take a card from the middle" and spread the cards to do a classic force on yourself. If you make it look like it doesn't matter, the spectator won't think it matters.
I really did have fun with the competition though. It sucked that I lost because of a prop issue, but at least I'll know better for next time!