What is the difference between a trick and a miracle?
That sounds like it should be the set-up to a joke right? But it is definitely not a joke. It is a basic question that we magicians should study if we want to become better performers.
This thought was sparked off while I was at a meeting of the Monday Mystics, a local group of magicians who meet on a Monday (who would have guessed). There was a new waitress who had heard about our merry band and she was desperate for someone to show her a trick. As is usual for a group of magicians when posed with the problem of who should be the lucky guy, everyone looked at everyone else, shuffled their cards and hoped that someone would give in first. We are all happy to show a trick but not so happy when we are also surrounded by our peers.
I was just as guilty as everyone else. I had nothing on me, well none of my usual arsenal of thumb tips and other trade secrets. I usually pack a little zipper bag just big enough to hold the necessities of a mini close-up show for just such an occasion. Luckily one of the guys stepped up to the plate and did the ‘old’ bill switch, well I guess that is how so many would refer to it, he switched a one dollar bill for a mis-made bill and casually gave it back. This led to much screaming by the new waitress. I think she had recently witnessed one of David Blaine’s Street Magic TV shows and thought that was the correct reaction!
Hmmmm thought I…‘She came to our table wanting to see a trick, but she left having witnessed a miracle’.
Then I thought… But I have seen others perform the same trick or versions of it and it was just a trick.
As I doze off to sleep later that night I was mulling over the scenario:
So what is the difference between a trick and a miracle? And how come one persons trick is another persons miracle?
If the trick is the same then the difference must be in the performer.
There are only three variables, one of them is the audience and we can hardly blame them, especially if they are the ones being proactive about the performance. That leaves the trick or the performer, and if it is not the trick it must be the performer. We should be asking questions of ourselves and not of our material. Maybe the correct question is ‘how can I make a trick into a miracle experience for someone who wants to see a trick’… Now maybe we are getting somewhere!
The best adage that applies is ‘look before you leap’. Take a moment to review the situation before you do anything. If someone asks to see a trick and you say pick a card because you happen to have some cards to hand then you are going to do a trick. If on the other hand you stop for a moment and mentally decide how much time you have, what the performance situation is, how to best use it, etc, then you may just manage to do some magic. Even if you end up doing an ‘old’ trick.
My Mum always used to tell me to engage my brain before I used my mouth. I think we should engage our brain before we dive into our current favorite trick. At least take the time to exchange pleasantries and build a relationship, find out their name and introduce yourself, maybe plant a seed of a question by saying ‘well I could show you a trick, but that would just leave you a puzzle to figure out, wouldn’t you rather experience a miracle.’ By asking a question like this you have already started to manipulate the spectator and raise expectations, all you have to do now is deliver.
Even if we then end up doing our current favorite trick there is at least a chance that it might be truly magical.