The False Constraint

One of the easiest things you can do for a more powerful presentation is to add a false constraint into your performance.

For example, the other night I was hanging out with my friend and at one point I just "happened to notice" that it was the Spring equinox. Not only that, but we were approaching the exact midpoint of the night between sunset and sunrise. I got all excited and told my friend to get a jacket and shoes on and meet me out front. "There's something I've always wanted to try on the equinox," I said. 

Once we were out front I oriented our bodies so we were facing each other and so a line running north and south would run between us.

We each had half a deck resting on our fingers in our palm-up hands. Mine had a face-up card on top, his had a single card face-down next to the rest of the stock. 

I told him about the equinox. How night and day were the same length and how we were approaching the point where we were equidistant from sunset and sunrise. And how, if you split up the earth into two hemispheres based on a line drawn between us, at any moment, on the other side of the earth, the sun was going from mostly in my hemisphere to mostly in his hemisphere. 

As I talked, I would occasionally flick the wrist of my hand holding the deck, but nothing would happen. At one point I flicked it and the top card begin to spin. "Hold still," I said, "It's about to happen."

We waited a few moments. And just as I was about to suggest that maybe this thing didn't actually work, the card on the palm of his hand flipped over onto the cards on his fingers and began to spin.

The trick, if you're not familiar with it, is Butterfly by Bruno Copin.

Am I saying this trick gets a better reaction if you drag someone outside in the middle of the night on one specific night a year?

Uhm, yeah, that's 100% what I'm saying.

Putting in constraints about when you perform a trick, where you perform it, for whom you perform it, etc., all of these make for a richer experience for your spectators. It prevents them from immediately resorting to the Non-Explanation.

I am more and more convinced that one of the issues with the perception of magic is that we perform it as if it was completely inconsequential and so that's how people view it. "I'm going to change five $1 bills into five $100 bills." And then we do it. If your only goal is to do some visually interesting things for people, I think that's fine (and I think that's a fine goal). But if your goal is to give people an experience, then there needs to be some element of a story there. A story that they're a part of.