The Romantic Adventure style gets its name from the introduction to the old radio program, Escape!
The idea behind this performing style is that you present things that are "designed to free [your audience] from the four walls of today." That sounds grandiose and if you're walking into it thinking, "I'm going to give this person a life-altering experience," then you're putting too much pressure on yourself and the moment. Instead the thought should be, "I'm going to guide this person along on a brief expedition through a unique and interesting scenario." That's all.
"Ah, no, no, no. Not my friends. They won't go for that sort of thing."
Oh, no? Your friends don't like unique and interesting things? They just come home from work every night, peruse the encyclopedia, then read thru the digits of pi starting where they left off the night before?
By definition, people are interested in interesting things. (Check your etymological dictionary, those words are actually related.) If you think your friends won't be into this type of presentation because you've seen them check-out of things you've shown them before, you have to remember that that's because they weren't engaged. The solution to that is not to dull-down your presentations to match their level of investment. You need to entice them with something more interesting.
Here are two tips when getting into this style:
1. This is not the sort of thing you'd want to perform for someone you've just met. However it is the sort of thing you can perform for a group of people you just met. "You want to try something weird?" is an intriguing lead in when you're hanging with a new group. But one-on-one, with a stranger, it sounds like a potential lead-in to forced sodomy or a murder-suicide.
2. Do not ask too much of someone, especially the first time you perform for them in this style. It's perfectly acceptable to ask for their time, interest, and to have them follow along with simple instructions. But if they don't know you, and don't know they can trust this will turn out to be something worthwhile, it's a little awkward to ask people to invest emotionally or to play a part that is not themselves. This is an intimate style of performance, and just like any type of intimacy, it's best if it grows organically. You don't invite someone in at the end of your first date and lead off with dry anal fisting.
So let's look at a coin vanish done in the Romantic Adventure style. In this approach the effects aren't used as an end in themselves. Instead they're used to establish a reality slightly askew from the one your spectator is used to.
The presentation that follows is for a complete three coin vanish. Something like Joshua Jay's Triad Coins. It's done in four acts or movements. It incorporates some elements of the previous styles mentioned—they are seeing the process of practicing magic as in the Peek Backstage, and they are seeing things get slightly beyond your control as in the Distracted Artist—but the main focus of the effect is to bring your spectator into a world where belief affects reality and re-writes memory. Want to get away from it all? We offer you... Escape!
Remember Sammy Jankis
Your friend Hannah comes over.
You answer the door, "Oh, hey! What's up? I mean... come on in."
"Am I early?" she asks.
"Oh, no. Sorry. I knew you were coming?"
"Is that a question?"
"No. No. Of course not. My head is all over the place today. My brain is scrambled. You're here to watch a movie and get dinner. I remembered. Go take a seat and I'll get you a drink."
You come back in the room with a couple beverages.
On the coffee table there is a post-it pad and a marker.
"What does that mean?" she asks.
You read what it says on the Post-It.
"Huh. I haven't the foggiest idea what that means. What are my 'vanishing coins'?"
You pick up the note and look at it, then look around the room, confused. You notice your copy of The Amateur Magician's Handbook on an end table nearby.
"Oh shit. That's right," you say as you uncap the marker. "I just spelled it wrong. It's not remember my vanishing coins" You uncap the marker and make a quick change to the note so it reads:
"It's 'Remember YOU ARE vanishing coins.' I was just trying to remind myself of what I was working on."
Before she can ask for an explanation you say, "Actually, could I get your help with something? I want you to let me know how this looks."
You grab three half dollars off the end table and hold them in a fan in your right hand. You take one with your left. Close your eyes. Squeeze it for a few seconds and open your hand. Then you open your eyes and stare directly at Hannah.
"Oh, hey! What's up?" you say.
She looks slightly confused. You act slightly confused. You look down and notice the coins in your hand then the note on the table. "Aw shit... did I just vanish a coin?"
She's like, "Uhm... yeah," and looks at you strangely.
"Yeah... sorry, I spaced out...uhm... can I tell you something that sounds a little strange?"
She gives you the okay.
"Alright... well... first, did you ever learn any magic as a kid?"
She says she knew a couple of card tricks.
"I'm going to teach you how kids are taught to vanish a coin. Here, take one of these," you say, offering her one of the half dollars in your hand. As she goes to take it you say, "Actually, that's too big. Let's use something smaller." You set the half dollars down and grab two other coins.
Now you teach her how to do a french drop. Yes, I know, I know. This isn't some big secret. And you're teaching the french drop to make the presentation stronger and the magic stronger at the end.
Practice it a few times with her. "That's looking pretty good," you say. "But that's just the first step. The physical step. As I said, this is what they teach little kids. And, actually, the physical part of a coin vanish is never more difficult than that. Do you know what the next step is? It's a mental step. To make your vanish really convincing you have to believe you really take the coin and you have to believe the coin is really disappearing."
You demonstrate a bad french drop (where your attention is on the hand which is supposedly empty) and then you demonstrate a good french drop (where your attention is on the hand that supposedly has the coin). And you get your spectator on board with the concept that the magician's belief is a key part in making the effect stronger.
"Here's where it gets weird. As you advance in learning magic, a coin vanish becomes less and less about the physical actions and more and more about your belief. It gets to the point where it's all belief, and you're not doing any sleight-of-hand at all. But the problem is, there is an infinitesimally small line between believing hard enough to make the physical coin go, and believing so hard that your concept and memory of the coin itself goes too. And that's where I'm at. I can get the coin to vanish, but I can't control it beyond that. The existence of the coin and what I was doing with it vanishes too. And it just feels like it's eroding my memory. But this is a phase everyone goes through who tries to learn this stuff."
"I know. It's hard to believe. Let's try again."
You pick up the two half dollars.
"I believe there are two coins in my right hand. I believe I'm taking one of the coins with my left hand. I believe I now have one coin in my right hand and one coin in my left."
You close your eyes.
"I believe the coin in my left hand is now dissolving away into nothingness."
You open your left hand.
You open your eyes.
"Oh, hey! What's up?"
You look around and let it slowly dawn on you what's going on.
"I'm sorry. This is weird. I'm going to tell you something a little strange. Did you ever learn magic as a kid?"
She tells you yes, you already talked about this.
"Oh, we did? Good. Good. Oh...so you know everything. I want to try again and I want you to do me a favor. After I put the coin in my hand I want you to clasp my fist with your hands. When I close my eyes I want you to silently count to three and then say, 'You're vanishing a coin.' Okay?"
"Okay. Here goes nothing. I don't see any other half dollars so this might be the last one for a while. The truth is I don't know if it disappears because I believe it disappears or if it's here because I believe it's here. Well...either way. On with the show."
"Ladies and gentlemen," you say, very presentationally. "I am about to make this coin vanish. Nothing up my sleeves," you say, rolling up your sleeves. Then you abruptly stop.
Up and down both forearms are notes to yourself written in black marker:
Remember, you're vanishing a coin.
Amateur Magician's Handbook, page 79.
Be here. Only the coin goes.
Started with $600 in half dollars.
The Jerx - 10/14/2016
Hold onto the memories
Your name is Steven Drake. Your parents are Betty and Theodore Drake. You're 43 years old.
A dozen or so messages up and down your arms.
"Sweet Jesus... how long have I been doing this?"
You take the coin in your left hand and squeeze it. Your friend places her hands around your fist. After a few seconds she says, "You're vanishing a coin."
"Ah... I remember," you say. "But it's still here." Your right fingers reach into your fist and remove the coin.
"This time, maybe, wait until I open my eyes. But the moment you see them open say, 'You're vanishing a coin.'" She agrees. You take the coin back into your left fist and hold it palm down. Her hands go around your hand. You close your eyes.
After a few seconds you open your eyes. She says, "You're vanishing a coin." Your left hand opens in her hands. This is something of a weird tactile vanish of a coin. She doesn't see your empty hand but she can feel there's nothing there. Remembering the french drop lesson she will look to your right hand which is clearly empty as well. Your right hand joins your left as you softly squeeze and pat her hands.
"I vanished a coin?" you murmur. She nods.
You look gently into her eyes. "I'm sorry," you say, quietly. "Who are you?"
I can't really suggest to you how to end the interaction. The trick ends with "Who are you?" Where it goes from there depends on your spectator. They may laugh, they may sigh, they may punch you in the shoulder. If you're a good actor it may come off as a very wistful moment. You may immediately snap back to reality or you may play it out some more, slowly regaining your memories.
Yes, this particular routine involves a bit of acting. But really nothing more than being confused and unaware of what's going on. That's something I'm sure you can handle, you box-of-rocks.
Let me be clear about the Romantic Adventure style of immersive effects. These aren't meant to be practical jokes. You're not trying to convince anybody of anything. But you should still play it straight to allow your spectators to emotionally connect to the situation. To get wrapped up in the story. You don't have to think something is real to be affected by it. (This is pretty well understood in every other art form in existence.)
But if you're doing everything with a nudge and a wink, you'll never get any reaction. It's like sexual role-play. You've got to be willing to commit to the fiction if you want to get those juices flowing, baby!
In fact, that may be the most useful way to think about this style of presentation. It's a non-sexual role-play where neither your nor your spectator change personas. Instead you use magic effects to allow the universe to masquerade as something it's not.
How does this address the Seinfeld critique? It completely obliterates it. Seinfeld's critique was about the pointlessness of magic. That it's only purpose was to fool you. This style puts magic effects in a greater context. The coin vanishes in this routine are part of the story not an opportunity to make the spectator feel stupid.