Being conscious of our angles of visibility is essential to successful sorcery. It is one of the first things that we learn in magic and one of the first things that we forget…or at least put in the back of our mind. We usually forget about it because it is so fundamental. All other misdirection is built upon this basic building block.
At the risk of deviating into a discussion on misdirection, I want to address the angle of visibility, or rather the angle of invisibility, to coin a phrase, as a basic “why” of magic. I have coined this phrase because it is nearly as important to know where your bad angles are as to know where your good angles are. Specifically, you need to be aware of when and where you can do the necessary something or secret move completely unnoticed.
Being conscious of your angles is something that should be foremost in your mind every time you perform. It is just as important to stage magicians as it is to close-up workers and every performer in between. To a degree, even escape artists must be conscious of their angles. Even mentalists must know who is looking at what during certain phases of their routines.
So, should you wait until you have successfully misdirected everyone and your moment is perfect before you make your secret move? You may not have that luxury as often times someone or ones are in the audience may be burning your hands. Even the appearance of the donkey and elephant on Blackstone’s stage doesn’t go completely unnoticed by absolutely everyone every time despite his strong misdirection. There will always be somebody who refuses to be deceived or perhaps they don’t look where you want them to look because your misdirection isn’t as strong as you think it is. If you find during the course of your close- up routine that there are skeptics who refuse to look away at critical moments, then you must change your routine to fit the situation. Nowhere is this more critical than when you perform in an impromptu situation. Perhaps all it may take to adjust your angle is to bring your hands closer to your body or turn your side or back to a particular spectator for a moment; however, all performing situations are not created equal. What effects may work in one environment may be disastrous in another. What works behind a bar may not work at the restaurant table. For example, trying to lap a shell coin while table hopping is out of the question . . . but you could use a topit. The effects that you can do while seated may be completely different from those you can do while you are standing. Even your favorite table hopping effects may not be practical while strolling at a cocktail party. You don’t have the same set of surroundings nor even the same ambiance in these venues.
Take for example the routine of a restaurant magician. Most of his effects are geared for maximum audience visibility since he wants the magic to be seen not only by those at the table but also by those at nearby tables so that he can generate interest at his next table before he ever approaches them. His angles of visibility are large and his angles of invisibility are rather limited in this surrounded situation. Wide gestures and much animation may certainly attract attention and give him some misdirection for making the move and thus increase his angles of invisibility, but it may also interfere with the food service.
Accordingly he must choose his moments carefully and be conscientious of his surroundings. After all, he is working completely surrounded in most situations. For example, he may not be able to palm his final load and drop his arm to his side because the table behind him may see it. His misdirection and timing must be perfect for accomplishing the move or else he must stick with a self-working trick that defies angles (i.e. zig-zag cigarette).
Unfortunately timing and misdirection are two things that can’t be practiced in the mirror. They can only be perfected under actual performing conditions. They can, however, be rehearsed and anticipated before you get into the real life situation. With much study and understanding of “why” an effect works, you can anticipate the audience’s reaction so that you will know the “moment” when you will have that angle of invisibility.
Although impromptu magic can and does happen anywhere at any time, perhaps the most frequent place where you will be asked to perform in an impromptu situation will be in a restaurant dining among friends. Fortunately you are provided with more “props” at a restaurant than any other place (ie. salt shakers, napkins, silverware, glassware, etc.) plus you are seated where you may take advantage of occasionally lapping an item; however, if you overdo this powerful method of vanishing objects, then before long everyone will know where the stuff is going. You may even feel more comfortable standing for a moment and going into a few table hopping bits. But again, you must be aware of where those seated beside you are looking.
They may be able to see into your lap if seated at a round table or if you are seated on the side of a long table. Accordingly, I always try to be seated at one end or the other of long tables. I may never be called on to perform, but if I am, then I will have the advantage of knowing my angles and of being seen by everyone at the table. Impromptu magic, or as I like to call it . . . jazz magic, is never really “impromptu” because you should have complete control over the situation including knowing where your best and worst angles are.
Think of another real life performing situation . . . jazz magic aboard an airplane. Talk about restrictions! You are belted in a seat with limited movement and a spectator seated immediately beside you who could potentially be getting the performer’s view at any given part of the routine. Those effects that worked so well in the restaurant now have to thrown out the window (well, maybe not at 35,000 feet), or do they? Perhaps with a little ingenuity, some of those effects can be adapted to the skyways. Obviously your “get ready” for the double lifts and finger breaks may be detected when you can’t move your body around. What you have long practiced to look natural now looks very unnatural in an airplane seat. Your arms are restricted so you can’t turn your body appropriately. More than half of your repertoire has to be thrown out or reworked.
Let me suggest that some “beginner” type of tricks, if properly routined, can be made to look professional and be completely baffling and particularly suited for these restrictive performing venues. Many tricks of this genre are dismissed as we “grow” in magic and become more “sophisticated” after we have mastered the Erdnase diagonal palm shift. Let me suggest that you go back and re-read those basics. Dust off those old books and become a magician again. Think about how you can rework some of those classics that you think “can’t possibly fool anybody.” Just remember how you once felt when you were awed by the first effect that you ever saw. Think how you can make a simple, selfworking trick more entertaining by wrapping your personality around it and you will be on your way to becoming a better, more flexible, and complete magician.