Scott Wells – Trix Are For Kids

Columnist:
Scott Wells

Are tricks just for kids? Why do people immediately associate magic with children? Is it because of our demeanor, our approach, our looks, our audience’s perception, our society, a combination of these, or is it something else? Perhaps it’s because that magic appeals to the child in each of us and transports us to a world of wonder where there is a suspension of disbelief where for just a moment, magic happens.

This is what I believe that magic is…a moment isolated in time when there is no known explanation for what just happened. Sometimes this moment lasts for an instant but ideally it should last much longer. It is something that people take home with them in their memories and tell their friends . . . and the legend grows. Their recollection of an instant gets blown out of proportion as the effect grow more and more impossible as the experience is retold.

Often it is a letdown for them to see it ever performed again for it is never as good as the way they remembered it or as Paul Simon said in his hit song `Kodachrome’ “. . . it would never match my sweet imagination.” It’s like much of life where we only remember the high and low points. The mediocre parts of life, and our routines, are lost in time and space. Without at least one high point, our performances then become, as Michael Ammar has said . . . “bubblegum for the eyes.”

A TV sitcom wants to have at least one good laugh in each show, one good joke, one good enough for everyone for viewers to retell at the office the next day. The success of that sitcom rests on that one joke, for if it’s good enough and gets retold, then new viewers will tune it in hoping to experience a laugh, a good time, a chance to enjoy what everyone else has seen and heard and perhaps to “chew some bubblegum” for a while. In the meantime, the underlying emphasis is on getting people to buy more of the products advertised on these programs.

The title of this article is the tag line from an advertisement for Trix cereal. Like the cereal which is full of sugar and sweet to eat and directed toward children, tricks done just for the sake of doing them is nothing more than sugar and sweetness and only appealing to kids. If we want to be remembered, then we must put something in our shows to make them remember their experience. Again Michael Ammar has several excellent thoughts on this but rather than recapping them here, you would be better off hearing it straight from him as I highly recommend his audio cassette “Making Magic Memorable.”

We all know enough tricks but we continue looking for THE trick that will be the ultimate trick. One which will make us fame and fortune beyond our wildest dreams. I am convinced that there is no trick that has ever been made nor one coming that has been or will be the Holy Grail. What we need to search for is a better performance of what we already know. We need to get in touch with what our experiences are and learn how we can communicate with others through a magical experience. “Know thyself” is the credo and “do the stuff that’s you” are words to practice by. Your performances are unique as you inject your personality into every effect.

The “Holy Grail” trick may already be in our closet waiting to be let out. One in which the luster wore off shortly after we brought it home from the magic shop/convention/lecture and read the directions. Just look through your closet or drawers full of stuff still in plastic bags and books with their spine never cracked. Then ask yourself why you are collecting this stuff if not to use it.

If you’re looking for books to stick on your shelves to take up space or arcane artifacts to gather dust, then you’re better off filling it with junk from a flea market and it would cost you a lot less than buying stuff from a magic dealer. Perhaps you enjoy the “ownership” of stuff just to say that you have it. Maybe you like the colors of the props. Maybe you like to own a piece of history, something that was once viewed by thousands of people around the world. Perhaps you are trying to keep alive your own memories of a different time when you were fooled, that instant in time when you experienced “magic.”

Your recollection of that moment is precious to you as it is for your audience when they first experience it. And their first experience with being awed by magic usually occurred when they were children. So any subsequent experience with magic brings out their child like quality, putting themselves in the mindset of that time when they were children.

Perhaps then this is the reason that people immediately associate magic tricks with kids (although tricks should have nothing to do with baby goats.) We appeal to their childlike innocence.

We can play on that innocence by directing our approach to that side of our audience. The old adage goes “It’s fun to be fooled” but I say “It’s more fun to be entertained.” Tricks will fool but magic entertains, or said another way, you can fool people with tricks but you can’t entertain their soul, their whole being unless it becomes magic. Tricks must be elevated to a level where it becomes entertainment, transcending our audience’s childlike nature and appealing to the logical, adult side of their character.

We want to take our performances out of the “trick” category and transcend them into the “magic” class. It’s true that “tricks are for kids” but magic is for adults.