Dear Jerxy: Again and Again

Dear Jerxy: How do you deal with spectators asking to see a trick again?

I'd like to hear your perspective for both types of tricks that you talk about performing: 

1) Quick five second tricks - in my experience these are the tricks most likely to solicit a request to see it again, since the effect is over so quickly that people may have felt like they missed something, or they just liked the effect and want to see it again.

2) The big spectacle type tricks that you're known for - I've never done this type of thing, so I don't know if people ask to "meet your evil twin" (or whatever) a second time, but I assume it must happen occasionally.

Obviously if a trick is repeatable, you can just repeat it. But for the other 70% or more, where repetition would at least be slightly dubious, what are your thoughts on dealing with this request?

One Pump Chump

Dear OPC: The first thing to keep in mind is that someone asking to see it again is not wholly a bad thing. It means they were fooled and it means they're interested in what you've shown them.

At the same time, I think it's also a symptom of two problems. The first problem is that the audience is viewing the interaction too analytically. With the exception of children, when most people ask you to "do it again" it's because they think another go-around will help them get closer to figuring it out. Even if that's not true, even if they say "do it again" out of shear delight, I still think that's something of a problem, and I'll discuss why at the end of this post.

It is my belief that presentational styles are the cure for every issue in magic. They're the cure for dealing with difficult spectators, the cure for magic being seen as a needy power-trip performed by weirdos, and the cure for preventing or dealing with the "do it again" people.

First, with the larger "spectacle" effects, it's not really an issue. The events just feel too consequential to say "do it again." With the "Romantic Adventure" tricks the magic effect is so enmeshed with the patter/presentation that even if the effect is technically just a color change, you don't get "do it again" because they can't directly detach the effect from presentation. So to "do it again" might mean another 5 minute, 45 minute, or 5 day presentation, if they were to think of it that way.

Here is how I deal with the request in the other styles:

The Engagement Ceremony: This is used for process-heavy tricks which aren't generally the type of thing that people ask to see again. If you have a trick that does invite a repeat viewing done in this style, then just add a final line to the instructions that indicates the procedure should only be attempted once a year.

Peek Backstage: You will occasionally get requests to repeat an effect in this style, but because this style is based on the notion of magic as a craft that you are practicing and working on you will get it less than you expect.

If someone does ask you to repeat it, you have a built in excuse: the truth. The Peek Backstage is a very honest style of performance. With no layer of theater between the performer and the spectator (other than the meta-layer that you need their help), you can just be honest.

Spectator: Do it again.
You: No.
Spectator: Why not?
You: Well... you'd probably figure it out. I just wanted your pure, unadulterated opinion. The second time you'll know what to expect. I don't want you to see too much behind the scenes because I want to be able to continue to get your input as an intelligent, thoughtful non-magician. If you learn too much it will turn you from a really great sounding-board/spectator to a really crappy amateur magician.
Spectator: That makes sense.
You: Unless you really want to learn magic, then I'll help you get started. The first step is usually an 8-hour lesson on how to hold a deck of cards.
Spectator: Uh, yeah, no thanks. I've got a life to lead.

The Distracted Artist: See Monday's post for more info on this style. Basically this style is designed to make the moment seem unplanned so asking to "do it again" would be out of place. 

As I said, being asked to do it again is symptomatic of two problems as I see it. And the second problem is this: They are not seeing the magic moment as something special. "Do it again," suggests they see the magic as easy, planned, and within your control. Magicians often strive for their effects to come off this way. They think it's a good thing. And for the professional, maybe it is. But for the amateur performer, I've found that having your magic perceived that way often kills any sense of wonder or surprise you're trying to generate. For a spectator, those things aren't the hallmark of a powerful magician, they're the hallmark of something that's "just a trick."

On Friday I'm going to talk about how we can use this fact to create more affecting magic when I talk about positive and negative ways to use dissonance when performing. I know this week's posts have been theory-heavy, but that's the roll I'm on. You'll manage.