Yesterday I wrote about some changes to the Luca Volpe’s Key of Fate routine that I’m making. I figured I should write out the effect:
I show lock that’s locked to a little case and four keys in a cup and only one will open the lock. There are also three colored notebooks and three matching colored spots on the floor.
Three people from the audience are invited onstage to play a game. Whoever’s key opens the lock will win one of the prizes written on one of the pages of one of the notebooks. Each person grabs one key and one notebook, leaving a single key on the table for me. They are to stand on the spot on the floor that matches their notebook’s color.
You flip the pages of the notebook for the first person to see what prize they are playing for. They end up picking 500 Pesos, but unfortunately their key doesn’t open the lock. The first person returns to their seat.
The second person selects the ice cream sundae from their notebook as a prize, but their key doesn’t open the lock. The second person returns to their seat.
The final person, who is standing on the blue spot selects a prize, which is a banana. When they try to open the lock, it opens! Inside the case is their prize, a banana!!! They can keep the banana and return to their seat in the audience.
For the kicker, you show underside of the two spots from the people that didn’t win and there’s nothing under them. The spot of the person that won, has some paper taped to the bottom of their spot. It says, “Congratulations on winning the banana, sorry the other two people didn’t wind the ice cream sundae and the 500 Pesos!”
Ok, so that’s how the routine plays. I’m a huge fan of being able to describe what happens in the trick in a sentence. If I take those six paragraphs of how the routine plays and condense it into one sentence it would be:
The magician predicts the outcome of a game played with the audience.
That’s the effect, it’s a prediction of the outcome of a game.
This week I’m heading down to California to perform for 8 days at a fair. It’s been over a year since I’ve done a fair gig, and that’s my core market. I’m working on something new, that’s a variation of Luca Volpe’s Key of Fate routine. I’ve made some major changes to stream line it for how I perform. The big change is that I can’t have the audience write their prizes. For me, that takes too much time, and logistically doesn’t really work out.
In lieu of this, I’m going to useSvenPadsto force the prizes. I bought three of notebook SvenPad‘s that look like this:
For the routine I needed three notebooks with different covers. I bought three notebooks and swapped out the covers.
The picture above shows the process of switching the cover. Below is the final product of the three covers:
I think that using these three notebooks to force the three prizes streamlines the process. We’ll see how it ends up playing…
My whole life I’ve been fascinated by monte type effects. When I was a teenager I had a trick called Three Coin Con by Eddie Gibson. It was a shell game style routine that used three coins (one was a different color than the other two) and three identical covers. Here’s Paul Daniels doing it:
The trick is a bit of a fooler, it’s got some great magical moments along with the “monte” presentational hook.
The set I had as a kid has long been lost, and recently I’ve been searching for a set. Up until about a week ago, I could only find them in European coins, but I just found a set on ebay and very excited to start doing it again! I’ve got a 8 day run at a fair in about a week, hopefully with a bit of dedicated practice I can start doing it there!
Sometimes I see a magic trick and I don’t know how I feel about it. The routine below is one of them, I’ll let you watch it first:
First of all, let me say that I am not the demographic he’s going for, so factor that into my opinion of it.
Here’s what it has going for it, it’s 100% on message. All of the props are themed and it doesn’t veer away from the message. If I was booking for a large religious event, I would definitely consider this. It’s big and fills the stage.
What I personally don’t like is his almost animatronic performance of it. The clip may be taken out of context, so there may be a reason why he’s doing it like that. In my opinion there’s nothing real happening, he’s not trying to connect with me. It could be a movie on a screen, not a live performance. Once again, it’s out of context and maybe that’s what it’s for.
I love seeing things that make me think about what I like or don’t like in a performance. It makes me look at my show with a more critical eye.
I love how people can look at the COVID restrictions and figure things out. A while ago I did a birthday party magic show in a small theater. The thing about this is that at the time, the show would have been against COVID restrictions to do in the family’s backyard. But if they did it indoors, in a theater, we could do the show. It doesn’t really make sense why this was OK, but outdoors wasn’t. I’m not going to get into that debate. When COVID first hit, I said I was going to follow whatever the local health code said, and this was allowed.
One switch I’ve made is I’m trying to have more props onstage at the beginning of the show. Normally it’s just my prop case and table. In 2019 I added the bowl on a stand to hold a ball of yarn and now in 2021 I’ve brought back my Applause Please trick (applause sign).
Visually that puts some stuff on the stage. While my show is still primarily hand held magic props, having something onstage for the audience to look at before the show makes it feel like something more. David Hira talks about this in his penguin magic lecture, I and really agree with him. Having something for the audience to look at and wonder what it does helps build excitement (in most instances).
I’ve posting in the past that I’ve been thrust into role of expert with the Vanishing Birdcage. There are definitely people who know a lot more than me, but I’ve spent some time with several different style of cages and know a little bit about what helps make the trick successful.
One thing is having a decent quality cage. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a cage, but you will have to spend a few buck. What you are looking for in a cage is something that’s smooth when collapsed. Tommy Wonder in his book mentions running a loop of string around the cage to look for snags and Billy McComb in his DVDs mentions rubbing it with a silk to look for snags. Since brick and mortar magic shops are becoming less and less common, something you can look for in an online picture is how streamlined it looks. Does it have a lot of bumps when collapsed? If you think it does, look for one that has less.
The cage that I use when collapsed is very streamlined and doesn’t have much bulk. It will easily fit through my wedding ring with the bird inside the cage! While having less bulk is important, the cage having less snag points is more important!
People always ask me what kind of vanishing birdcage do I use, and unfortunately I don’t know. It was given to me when I was a teenager by a magician because it had some broken bars. Some things to consider when picking is cage is how you are going to use it and how you need it to be on your body after the vanish. Blackstone Jr used that small Abbott’s cage because he needed to wear it for half of the show up his sleeve.
The main thing you are looking for is something that won’t get caught on your sleeve. Once you figure that out, you’re good to go!
Last weekend I was in Raleigh, NC and went for a walk. One of the things that I came across was a little street festival. It was a little bit of a return to getting back to normal. There was a street performer, and she was signer ad had a pretty decent sized crowd (also her PA was crazy loud!).
One of the interesting thing was how the crowd with now instructions, socially distanced themselves by group. This is a good sign for my summer performing at fairs. One of the things that I was worried about was how I was going to handle the crowds, and keep them socially distant. I was curious how much of that would be on me to do. It’s looking good that the audience will do it themselves. However, I think a lot of this will have to do with the local culture.
Whatever your personal beliefs on masks or social distancing, the reality is that if you want to work, you are going to have to follow whatever procedures the venue imposes. That may be nothing, or that may me a lot. Sure, as a magician whose job it is to entertain a crowd, you can’t force anyone to follow and rules or regulations. Just thinking about how you would manage a crowd now, will help you in the future if you ever need to.
There’s a lot of misinformation around about the Vanishing Birdcage. I have never really considered myself an expert about that trick, but recently it’s become clear that I know a lot more than most people, but still don’t consider myself an expert. It’s a trick I’ve been fascinated with for a long time, I’ve used off and on since I was a teenager and tried different styles, at one point I even did the Tommy Wonder vanish with the sleeves rolled up.
In a facebook group someone posted a link to a reel that was being sold as a door closer. Then this conversation happened:
You really can’t beat a wrist to wrist pull for the actual vanish of the birdcage. The power needed for the vanish happens before the vanish happens and there’s no way a reel or elastic can reasonably come close to the power your arms can. For the flash vanish, right before you are going to put tension on the pull’s cord by pushing the cage away from the body as hard as you can. This is going to start building up energy and when you let go of the cage you are releasing all of that energy and that explosion of power is what sends the cage up your sleeve. Once you let go of the string the pull doesn’t really do anything…except at the very end, it may help keep it high up your sleeve so it doesn’t peek out.
Most magicians think it’s pull dragging the cage up your sleeve, and not the cage shooting up your sleeve. Yes, you can vanish the cage by pulling it up your sleeve, however it’s an inefficient use of energy and you need a lot of arm movement to accomplish this. Having the cage shoot up your sleeve requires very little arm movement. The exception to this is Billy McComb’s Slow Motion Vanishing Birdcage, however it’s still a situation where a reel or elastic would be inferior as you lack control of the vanish.
When using a reel or elastic for the vanish (this is different from how a Take Up Reel is used) you are going to have constant tension on the corner of the cage that’s attached to the elastic. That means you are going to be fighting that tension to keep the cage upright. It would virtually rule out using an Abbott’s / Blackstone style Vanishing Birdcage, and make using a semi-rigid card really difficult. From the audience’s perspective your arms are going to be tense the whole time you’re holding the birdcage. You’ll be holding it like it’s 20 pounds, not less than a pound. This is the huge advantage of a wrist to wrist pull, you can instantly add the tension to the line whenever you want. In the case of the vanishing birdcage, you can do it a fraction of a second before the vanish.
For the actual power of the vanish, to get a reel strong enough to match the tension you can put on the cord with a wrist to wrist pull, the reel would have to be massive. Same with an elastic cord, it would be very thick.
Something else to consider is that with elastic or a reel is if there is any clean up, or to keep the cage up your sleeve. If the arm that it’s anchored on moves away, the cord will stretch. That will cause you to have to make exaggerated motions to compensate for the stretch to move the cage in your sleeve. Also after the vanish and the cage is in your sleeve, the cage’s weight will be pulling on the line, so you’ll be fighting it wanting to crawl back out of your sleeve. Sure you could have the elastic super short, but then there will be constant tension on your arms after the vanish.
I think people want to complicate the vanishing birdcage by adding things to it because a wrist to wrist pull is too simple to be what’s connected to the complex cage. Yes, a Take Up Reel is something that an addition to the trick, but something that helps with everything except the trick. The Take Up Reel has done it’s job before the vanish happens. When the actual vanish happens the Take Up Reel is functioning like a wrist to wrist pull.
If you’re going to do the Vanishing Birdcage, learn to do it with a wrist to wrist pull before you start playing with elastic, or whatever. That will give you a baseline for how the vanish should look.
About six month ago I came across a principle that would allow me to do a reverse three card monte, or I guess it’s technically a divination effect. I rip off three corners of a playing card, so two have indexes and one doesn’t. They are mixed up by a spectator with my back turned and I always know where the odd one is (non index corner). It’s a good puzzle, but not a good trick. It’s missing a lot, mostly an ending. I think it’s a good 3 am magic trick at a magician’s convention.
Here’s me doing it for another magician:
I’m not sure what I want to do with this. I’ve put some energy into trying to make it more than “you mix them and I tell you which one it is“, however I’m thinking that might be what it’s destined to be.
I finished reading the book JOHN MARTIN. The Master Magical Mechanic. A Genius at Work. It was an interesting book, full of history. Personally I would have liked a little bit more details about the props that John Martin made. There was a lot about what would be the “dealer description” but a lot less about how it actually functioned or what little touches he added.
The book was written by Granville Taylor and it talks a lot about him and how he used Martin’s props (still not much technical detail). I’m glad I read it, it gave me a much more solid background on John Martin and his contributions to the vanishing birdcage!
Here’s what’s in the book:
JOHN MARTIN. The Master Magical Mechanic. A Genius at Work.
Book written and published by Granville Taylor (Faust the Magician).
New. A limited edition of 250 copies, each one numbered and signed by the author. 105 pages, including 24 pages in full colour, with over 100 colour photographs, plus 10 detailed workshop plans of some of the Martin replicas made by Granville Taylor. Preface by Peter Diamond. Introduction by Professor Edwin A.Dawes. The book, A4 size, is stapled and bound with red Rexine cardboard covers.
Chapters: Martin’s Early Days, Magical Equipment Made by Martin, My Introduction to Martin, My Turn to Shake Hands with a Legend, More Visits to Martin, Touring the World, Taylor-Made Magic & Martin Replicas, My Martin Equipment, Is it a Martin?, Granville Taylor assisted by Martin, Memories of Jan Martin Recalled by Prof.Guy Higgins, Leo Burns, Photographs of My Martin Equipment, Photographs of Taylor-Made Replicas of some of Martin’s Equipment, Photographs of Martin Equipment from the John & Anne Davenport Collection, Photographs of some Martin Equipment from the Peter Nicol Collection. Plus 10 Workshop Plans for Taylor-Made Martin Replicas: Poker size Rising Cards, The Coin Shooter, Release Clip for Lines for Coin Shooter and Holdout, Vanishing Birdcage Clip, The Martin “Butterfly” & Improvements, Small Butterfly Production, The Handkerchief Vanisher, Lit Cigarette Vanisher, Gadget for Cutting Rope Ends, The Cigarette Dropper.
Granville Taylor (Faust the Magician) knew Martin in the last few years of Martin’s life, watched him at work, and ordered several items for his show. He owned and presented the only illusion Martin ever built (The Aerial Suspension), and, over the years he has bought more rare Martin equipment, which he has used in his shows around the world. This book is a fitting tribute to The World’s Master Magical Mechanic.