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Escape acts are not “Us against them”

When you escape it’s “Man against machine”. The audience never feels like you are taking advantage of them.

The strait jacket or other confinement are devices. The drama is “Man against machine”. It’s a theatrical plot line where a person is restrained. The drama occurs when they escape. Sometimes the good- guy is restrained, sometimes the bad- guy. In both opposing cases it’s not na “Us against them” scenario. The theatre generated revolves around the device and wheather the actor can or can not escape (and the good or evil that comes from it).

In a live show, the people doing the restraining may or may not be members of the audience therefore the struggle is not connected to personality. The struggle is related to the ability of the person to escape. Because the struggle is not personality oriented it can not be considered an “Us against them” scenario. Adding a penalty is yet another layer or sub-plot. The penalty may be self- imposed such as hanging from a burning rope. If the performer does not escape in time, they fall on their head. Again there is no “Us against them” motivation so theatrically speaking, the struggle is “Man against machine”.

Escapes may begin with a challenge but the audience comes-over to your side when they realize you are trapped. In the case of select tricks, the only way the magic can happen is if the magician looks good but the audience does not. Many sucker tricks work that way. Incidentally I perform sucker tricks at parties all the time so I’m not degrading them. I’m saying that adding an escape, shows the audience you are not taking advantage of them.

Oh, you might be… But the perception is that you aren’t.

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I’m just a hobbyist (I don’t need anything fancy)

Why should magicians spend money, anyway?

Here is what a man once said to me across the counter “I only do this as a hobby so there is no reason for me to have nice props”.

I’ve noticed there are many avid cigar smokers. What fascinates me is the amount of effort these people take to search-out their favorite brand. Many, buy custom made humidors that keep cigars fresh. They own fancy cigar cutters that look like little finger choppers. This is a hobby. Then there are the people who take wine appreciation classes to educate themselves about various wines. Many of these people invest in special refrigerators or even wine cellars. I did a show for a man with a five million dollar collection od wines he kept in a specially constructed vault with a high-end security system and TV monitoring. That too was a hobby because he never sold the wine, he served it to his friends. Ever look at bicycles and the weekend warriors themselves? They have custom clothes made to identify their group. Many of the bicycle is outfitted with high-end compoants. The general goal is to own a lighter bike using more expensive parts which allow faster speed and better cornering. Some bicycles cost over 5,000 dollars. Remember, these are for hobbyists. Skiers have the newest styles of clothing. You better not show up to the slopes wearing last years style. Too often magicians and clowns do the opposite. I can’t tell you how many times customers have insisted they want cheep tricks.
Even if this is just a hobby, why wouldn’t you desire to make a good impression? People know the difference between a nicely made prop and something that looks cheap. Their opinion of you goes up when you have nicely polished shoes, your equipment looks clean and you drive around a better vehicle. Would you show up to a business meeting with a paper grocery bag full of papers or would you show up with brief case?

“The impression you make is the memory you leave.”

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How to perform a sucker trick

Jay’s method on performing sucker tricks

We’ve all performed Sucker Sliding Die tricks where the audience yells where the die is, immediately after you open all the doors “If it’s not in the box it must be in the hat.” There’s no mystery when kids call-out the ending as you reproduce the die. You are no longer a magician and are demoted to puzzle worker.

Reverse psychology is my answer – I’ve discovered, when you make the first “Clunk” or sucker move and immediately state “The die is in the hat”….. your performance will be much stronger. The audience ignors your asertation by callin-out “It’s in the other side of the box”. As you continue to tilt the box (and sucker them) they continue insisting the die is in the other side. Each time you prepare to open the “other” door, you state “The die is not in the box but in the hat”. They will commit their position that the die is still in the box. Once they commit themselves that it’s not in the hat, you have jumped a mental hurdle. You then elevate a puzzle to a mystery when you finally produce the die from the hat. They painted themselves into a corner when they commited to the die being in the box.

When you finally open the doors on the Die Box, the audience is not eager to blurt out “It’s in the hat” because they were commited to the belief it was in the box. By causing them to verbally state the die is in the box (three times) you generate a psychilogical conflict when you prove them wrong. They can not switch their point of view easily and call out how “They knew it was in the hat the whole time” because doing so would make them admit they were wrong, and people would rather not believe they were wrong. The only explaination must be that you are a magician.

The mystery becomes that YOU did it…….. not that THEY figured out the ending, and beat you to it. There is no contest. By answering the objection before the audience raises it, the smart performer becomes the expert.

This reverse psychology also serves a few purposes for the Chair Suspension. Bt telling the kids that you don’t know if you can do the trick (just as you remove one chair) you cause them to insist the assistant IS floating…. They are so completly consumed with making you notice the floating assistant they CAN NOT find fault in the apparatus. Also, by stating that you are not floating the volunteer, the volunteer stays still because there is curosity as to how they are floating. Move it along and act like you never made the assistant float.

Try my performance strategy and let me know if it works for you.

Jay Leslie

Copyright 2005


Performing a flat-model sucker trick

A Flat-model sucker trick does not use a shell, instead it uses two duplicate objects that are flat. If the version you own allows you to retain or remove the hidden object while leaving the other one alone then read on.
For clairity lets call the double door silding box, the box and the piece where the object is removed from is not the hat but the holder.

Open Saturn holding it at the bottom (L. hand). Take the visible moon out (R. hand) and show it around, Return the moon. Don’t let go. Hold the moon with four fingers and your thumb on the back of Saturn (R. hand). Close the front (L. hand). Re-grip the far, top of Saturn (L. hand), fingers on the outside, Now… use your thumb (R. hand) to swivel the moon up from the secret holder. Remove the moon on the downbeat. I like to make a joke

“Do you know that THEY say? They say.. Behind every cloud there’s a silver lining… and do you know who THEY are? Everyone turn around, THEY are all the OLD people standing in the back!”

Needless to say. As soon as you ask them to turn around, pull the duplicate moon from the back of Saturn. Then the fun begins, Set Saturn aside and go into the sucker part of the routine.

Place the moon in the double door cloud box. Right now I’m going to make the moon disappear from behind the clouds and magically go back to Saturn, like magic. (Close the door and tilt the box so a “clunk” is heard. Open the same door) The moon is gone. (Kids usually insist you open the other door. If not, look at one of them and say) “Oh you want me to open the other door?” (Tilt the cloud box opening the wrong door opposite the moon on each tilt. Insist that the moon is already behind Saturn. Ask the kids if they want you to open both doors. Lay the cloud box almost flat on your bent knee or table, hiding the hole, and open both doors but tilting it so no one can see inside). Yep… They’re open… and I don’t see the moon (close both doors). OoooH, you want to SEE BOTH doors open? (Turn the cloud box so the back faces the audience, hiding the hole, and open both doors all the way, (move your thumb out of the way as the door swings open). There you are… Both doors are open! OooH, you want me to turn it around? (Hold the cloud box close against your coat and do a 360 revolution ending up in the same position). OooH, you want me to turn the box around? But kids, the moon has vanished. It’s already back in the other box. No??? OK, I’ll turn it around. (Hiding the hole, turn the cloud box around like hand-over-hand steering with you steering wheel. Close the doors and turn them to the audience tilting it so the moon drops behind the fake). People!!! The moon is really at saturn..

REVEAL (Hold the moon in place with your thumb through the hole. Hold the sides of the Cloud Box with both hands. Thrust your arms forward and stop sharply so both doors open. Allow the audience to see inside, for two seconds – back lit 4 seconds – close the doors)

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Why should magicians perform an escape in their show?

Why should magicians perform at least one escape in a program?
You may already perform magic for kids, possibly corporate, busking or close-up but the connection you make with escapes is as “real” as it gets. You get real respect doing at least one escape.

Why should magicians perform at least one escape in a program?

You may already perform magic for kids, possibly corporate, busking or close-up but the connection you make with an escape is as “real” as it gets. You get real respect doing at least one escape.

Escapes can be tied to corporate messages, Anti-bullying Shows, Just Say No Shows or a variety of safety/rules presentations, all with very positive response. People never root for a magician to fool them, no matter how suave and sophisticated they are. On the other hand, people
respond unbelievably well when you escape from restraints. The audience is living vicariously and they feel the anguish and suffering the magician is
living through. People root for a winner and they need to believe in heroes. Whatever their reason, the audience is on your side when you escape and the comments after the show will prove it. Many say “I know the magic was fake but the escape was real”. Very often people comment how they like the magic (And it can be pretty amazing sleight of hand) but they verbalize but they also say “They knew I did something”. They didn’t know what, but they suspected trickery so the value of the performer is slightly diminished. People always compliment the escaped I performed by saying it was “REAL” and they knew I didn’t try to fool them while I escaped from a Straitjacket or whatever the divice is. My value as an entertainer was increased and my value as a human being too. This is because escaping from restraints is not an “Us against them scenario”. Escaping never leaves the impression that “I fooled you” or “I am slick”. When performing escapes you are performing classic drama in the form of Man Against Machine, an established plot line that’s very popular in the movies and live plays.
hen you perform magic, the audience sometimes feels like you “pulled one over on them”. During the show they may be laughing, applauding and throwing money in the tip jar but at 3:00 am, in the depths of the subconscious mind, they’re thinking “I don’t know exactly how he did that BUT… he did something! Either his hands were fast or he tricked me into looking the other way, but he did something. And right there, you disconnect with that person because they feel slighted. They understand you were a good performer and that’s the very reason they dismiss your performance. (Please reread that last sentence) No matter what you performed, it wasn’t real, it was a show and there was a trick involved. So even the best magicians can loose a small amount of respect for the exact same reason they were applauded in the first place. (Please reread that last sentense also).

When you perform escapes, even one escape, viewers accept it as real skill and root you on as you emerge victorious. Think about this: You have just made a die reappear in a hat, how many people are cheering your victory, calling your name, happy for your success? None, They may be puzzled, fooled or amused. When you make their card appear in your wallet how many are calling-out “I knew you could do it”. They may be amazed and respond to the impossibility of the situation but no one ever jumps for joy at the fact they were fooled. No one likes to be taken advantage of and that’s why we occasionally walk up to a table and the person sitting there has no interest to see “a magician”. On the other hand, when you are restrained and the audience sees your distress, they start rooting during the escape as if you’re making the winning goal at a football game (it’s true). I’ve performed every type of magic in every size venue and always notice a better response when an escape is involved at some point in the show. The audience wants to believe they cheered-on the good guy. They want to believe they saw a beaten-man overcome the odds and be free (another popular plotline in the movies). Escapes can be a team building experiance for everyone in an office to cheer together as you aproach freedom. Take a look at our books and escapes. Imagine how great it will be when the audience sees you as a role-model and hero figure. Yes, a role model and hero figure. Even though Houdini died almost a century ago, people speak his name like it was yesterday. Imagine the applause Houdini generated and you can recreate that same drama. That’s because he represented an idea that people should be free, that people can overcome obsticales and that’s more powerful then finding a card in a wallet. The audience wants to root for a winner and when you escape from something. you are not just a winner, the audience is the winner too.

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A spectator wants to do a trick with your cards

What to do if a spectator wants to use your cards.

I don’t let anyone stop the show AND I don’t make anyone feel bad:

I like performing (sorry I don’t know the name) the trick where it looks like you have an entire deck but you only have about 6 cards, spaced-out, and you tilt them so they look like a deck. Then you hand them the “deck” and remark ‘Wow. You made all the cards disappear. That WAS a good trick” and gesture for the audience to give them some applause.

At that moment you can offer to return when the spectator finds the rest of the cards OR bring-out a coin trick and remark “Since I don’t have any more cards, let’s try this one”. (If the spectator insists that you hand them the cards, you insist-back that they should have them in their pocket… Like we planned.) Now you have the option of continuing with a coin trick or saying that you’ll stop-back in a few minutes when the spectator brings the cards back – and you may leave.

In either case you were not offensive, They didn’t stop the show, and you didn’t make an enemy – if you did it right.
Doing it right means that you gesture for everyone to applaud for the spectator and when you say you’ll be back, you act as if the spectator was “IN” on the trick from the beginning. I conclude by saying to the spectator “I know, that you know, how it was done but if you could do me a favour and not tell anyone else…I’d appreciate it. And again, the spectator appears to have been part of the performance – they got some positive attention and you’re on your way without making anyone look bad.

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Performing Challenge Escapes

Perorming Challenge Escapes. Don’t be surprised if you ask 2 volunteers to help then as soon as you’re somewhat off-balance, 6 more rush on-stage and try their best to make life difficult for you.. Expect that it can happen because it occasionally does. that means you should probably only sell your act, as a challenge act, after you have been performing escapes a number of times
Don’t be surprised if drunk people ignore your directions. It happens. it happens during magic shows and escape shows but usually the only person in an escape show, that gets hurt, is you.
Don’t be surprised if your own helpers, that are friends as opposed to seasoned assistants, are chatting-it-up with the audience and they let the rope slip, so you fall on your head. A good rule of thumb is to practice the entire escape 20 to 50 times and ig you can allow your assistant to take your place so they experiance a little bit of what you will.

Escapes are not like magic inasmuch as sometimes you get a few people that try to screw with your sleights, answer your questions in a converse mannor or sit in the audience explaing their therory as to how the illusion works. When presenting escapes you might have the entire audience screw with you and their attempts may be of a phisical nature. (I remember one show at a coffee house at a college, They were brutal). So you have to present eswcapes where you are absoultly certain you will sucseed. An Escape Artist is not a gambler – An escape Artist is a showman.
As you are being secured the audience roots for the volunteers to make sure you’re not getting out. After you commence with the escape itself -and- the audience realises that you’re at their mercy, their attitude changes, they root for you to sucseed. (It has something to do with a guilt-trip) The tide changes and they are uaually are on your side – EXCEPT where there is money involved and a time limit, ala the 100 foot rope tie. In this case the audience response can be shear pandemonium as you get close to the bell. They want their friends to win that challenge bet, no matter if it’s ahundred dollars or five thousand. It’s not the amount you offer, it’s the principle of the bet.

There are times when you need to take action to protect yourself and/or the secrets of the modus operandi.While i myself have never done this, I understand that various EAs have kicked people off stage to protect themselves. I also understand that Houdini had a few people in the audience, ready to grab unruly people and hustle them out the door. That was a different time but the message is still clear. When you perform challenge escapes you need to have a safety crew and know what you’re doing.

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I deck variations

Here’s a few variations on the I deck (If you have to ask what it is, this isn’t for you)
There are a few – who would rather keep it under their hat – but they switch the ID deck into play while handing the spectator a different coloured box and deck,

The volunteer is given their choice of red or blue. They are asked to shuffle. They hand their deck back. That are asked to shuffle the other deck. In the process the first deck is exchanged for the ID.

Then the volunteer is asked to hold the “original” deck (red or blue) and hand back the second deck.

From that point you’re open to having anyone pick a card from the second deck OR the volunteer names a card which is removed from the second deck (or whatever you want to do)
The point is that the supposedly shuffled ID is being held by the volunteer until the revelation.
– – – – – – – –

Yes it seems like a long description and work (I myself don’t bother doing it this way) BUT after the performance the spectators who try to reconstruct the effect rule-out trick decks because “it was shuffled”

The whole routine is reminiscent of Billy McCombs version of Himber rings, where you involve people sitting to the right and sitting to the left – so you can do what you need to do. It plays well, from the times I’ve seen it.
My clean-up is to say that I’ll explain just one. The cards (invisible) that I handed you were ALL the_________ so you had no choice. Now when I put the card away, there’s no need to cut the cards and put it on the bottom or do any other clean-up because that explanation allows you to put their card back where you found it, and you’re done.

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A better way to do a newspaper tear

If you’re still doing a newspaper tear where, at the end, you need to fold things….. during the tearing process it would be more natural to fold “halves” a few time – or at least flip them over- instead of laying them on top of each other.

The necessary folding action will look similar to actions they have already seen and that last bit of bending won’t raise eyebrows.

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Abbott’s Hole In One tips.

A better way to perform Abbott’s Hole In One

I have found that Hole In One works better if you don’t use all the balls (the front hole is empty) and here is why:

Tell the volunteer to take four balls. While they examine their four you rearange the remaining four to sit in the four corner holes . It only takes three seconds.

Ask them to hand you the colour of their choice. Place it on the spot. Cover the glass with the other glass, do your thing, remove the silk. Because the spot in front of the glass is empty the audience can see the selected ball in the glass. Otherwise the effect can only be shown to people who are standing because the front ball obscures the effect.

I like to use a 27 inch silk places on square. The audience can see my knuckles but not under the silk Just check your lighting before the performance and if you can see through the silk then cover the big glass first, with a table napkin with the corner allowing the spread of the napkin to hang over the front. Have the volunteer place the silk on top. The silk underneath may be slippery enough they both slide off the glass but the cloth napkin will hold better.

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Do you perform repeat shows and need a formula for your line-up?

If you perform for the same clients more then once you need a formula.
This is what I used for our illusion shows.
Frist half: Opening – audience participation – skill, like sleight of hand with balls and silks – rabbit or dove appearance and vanish – audience participation then one of seven floating assistants (or volunteers)

– intermission –

Second half: A cut & restored or mutilated parasol type of effect – an illusion like mismade or melting through metal – production number (usually a silk production with a rabbit finally) a mentalist routine – audience participation (like a bank night out or lie detecter) – an escape (strait jacket, 100 foot rope tie, handcuffs or?) – the final illusion – applause – get the check (my favorite part) These shows were over an hour long and I had a route. We performed about 80 illusion shows a year.

Each year, I would fill the time with effects that followed the formula. Each year it was the same show—-but—- completely different.- different costumes – different music – but always the same formula.

Almost all the big names have their own formula too, I’m just applying my own to the size show that fits in a 24 foot box truck including sound, a lighting truss and curtains.

Your formula will probably be different but the inportant ability it gives you is to pick your effects in a matter of an hour instead of mulling it over. Having a formula also narrows down what you have and what you need. You will save time and money when you use a formula.

Just so you know, I’ve performed every trick we sell and they work as advertised. If you have a need to build something different then we have listed contact me and I’ll see what we can do.

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My balloon broke (what to say to a kid)

My way to answer MOST children when their balloon breaks while you’re packing and heading out the door. (One foot is out the door) After the “official” balloon making is over I explain that I need the remaining balloons for another party. Then someone approaches as you’re headed out the door and you know another one will be right behind them. (Remember you are in the middle of packing and leaving.)

Statement: My balloon broke?!?
Response: So did mine! (that stops them right there) You know…when I make balloons I give them all away. I gave away 20 balloons today. So, my balloon… the one I gave you, broke….(Pause)…OUR balloon broke. We both had it for a while. Be happy…It’s going to a better place. Here’s what you do. Think good thoughts… I want you to put OUR balloon in the trash so it will be recycled. Some day it might become part of a car or a toy. Recycling is a good thing. Thank you very much. You are very helpful. Unfortunatly, I really have to get out the door so would you also tell
anyone else to do the same thing if they break theirs, too? Thank you. (Remember, your hands are busy loading the dolly so it’s not like you’re just standing there with the ability to dig in the bottom of your case because, you can’t).

Now, before I get hate mail from all of you who think I’m being mean… “Why don’t you just make the kid another balloon”. I heard that! Please understand the circumstances. You are in the middle of heading out the door and there comes a time when enough is enough. The party started late, the pizza was late, the host asked if you could start late, you’ll be late to your next show, it’s 100 degrees and the kids are rubbing their
balloons against the grass. You told them earlier “Hold them in the air”. You told them again and again, “It’s time to leave”. So now Mr. smarty pants, do you see the wisdom here? Instead of looking like a schlubb who begs off by saying “I’m sorry, I have to go” what you’re doing is A.

Emotionally bonding with the child (or hysterical adult) so they know you understood their pain and you followed up by offering a solution in having them recycle it . The child now feels they feel like the’re helping. The last impression you want to leave is a 5 year old standing there with a broken balloon dangling from their hand as you are pocketing a fistful of cash. Ok, Ok. Don’t listen, just make all the kids “one last balloon”, why not move in the spare bedroom, just don’t blame me if you’re late to your next show.