I want to share with you a time when, during the most important sleight of a long routine, I flashed the move to the spectator helping me.
When you're a professional magician, you've performed enough times that you have ways to recover from different disasters or outs you can use. If you flash, maybe you have a repertoire of patter you can dive into, or you know how to recover so that it's not the end of the set. Unfortunately, I'm not a professional and in this specific case I was performing for an audience of about 30 people -- the biggest I've ever done.
Background About the Trick
A few years ago, when I restarted my journey in magic, I put into effect one of many effects I had created "in my mind" over the years. During my absence in performing magic, I always daydreamed about routines or performances, so I had many like this. This one special routine was an expanded handling of the "secret" routine from Drawing Room Deceptions that adds a little more flare to it -- especially given the use of a lighter!
It turns out, Chris Ramsay had a very similar idea and marketed his effect a few years ago:
I had performed mine only a few times before seeing his and while they're pretty identical in handling and effect, I actually really liked his concept of it being "voodoo". My original version was more of a do-as-I-do type of thing where I tried to tie it into my career (engineering) and how nano-bots can replicate actions. Yeah, it makes more sense during the presentation =P
Anyways, I gave Ramsay's presentation a whirl and it ended up getting a much better reaction than mine so there's another case in history where just changing the way you present the same handling can have a huge impact on a routine and practically make it a new routine altogether.
Performance, and Flash
This routine doesn't involve a ton of sleight of hand. There is some, don't get me wrong, and you have to pull it off really well unless you want the routine to be over before it begins.
So, there I was...
I was at my office in New York, showing a smaller routine or two to a few friends in the kitchen area. A group of coworkers all left a meeting and passed by and saw me doing a trick and started gathering. Next thing I knew, there were at least 30 people crowded around and I'm on the spot, unprepared because I was only meaning to show a single trick I had recently been working on.
And then, I remembered, I had everything necessary to perform "Voodoo". I called over someone to assist and started laying out the premise for what was about to happen. I gave an introduction to help get the audience's mindset into voodoo magic, and then had the assistant select a card via a riffle force.
That's when I flashed the gimmicked card, necessary for the routine's finale.
It all happened in an instant. The card dropped onto the selected face-up card. Only the assistant-spectator who was standing right next to me would have been able to see it before I was able to quickly grab it back up, but the damage was done.
If the person I'm doing the trick for saw the gimmicked card before anything happened, they're not going to be surprised or impressed or mystified by anything that takes place. The audience will read their reaction too and, well, the trick's ruined.
I froze for what felt like a solid 10 seconds, but I think it wasn't really any more than 1 second. I thought the trick was over, I screwed up and of course, all eyes were on me.
And that's when I remembered something from Card College:
I made up my mind right then and there to bring him into my confidence. With half of the deck in my left hand, his selection face up on top, the other half of the deck in my right hand, I turned to look at him and his stare met mine. I smiled, he smiled, and we proceeded on with the trick.
Before the smile, I felt nervous like you wouldn't believe. I felt ashamed that I screwed up and embarrassed that one of my first real performances, and with so many people, was a flop. And as soon as he smiled back the weight was lifted from my shoulders. I became a performer once again and carried the trick all the way through the finale.
I'm going to say that it got a standing ovation, but in fairness, everyone was already standing since, I mean, they were crowded around a table in the office's kitchen =P
To this day, I still don't know whether he saw the flash or not. If he did, he was the better performer that day because I completely believed his reaction. If he didn't, I don't think it would change anything overall.
I've reviewed the handling of the trick time and time again to come up with a better way to help prevent flashing in future performances but honestly, I think it's just a practice thing. The handling is streamlined and effective, changing anything would add additional moves and increase the risk of flashes in my opinion. It's just one of those things that happens.
I don't know if I've read, or watched, or otherwise heard of any other guidance on what to do if you flash during a performance, other than what I quoted above from Card College. If I hadn't had that tip, or if I didn't remember it in the moment, what would I have done instead? What would you have done?
Do you have any fun, scary, or just plain sad experiences with tricks going sideways? How did you get out of it? Or how did you end it abruptly?
I'd love to know, and hey, maybe I can share your story here too! Let me know <3