Shortly after my book, The Show Is The Mother Of Invention, How to Pack Small, Play Big and Live Large came from the printer I realized I could have added one more strategy for playing big from a carryon case. And I kicked myself because it’s something I use in my own work nearly every show.
So I’ll talk about it here.
It packs small.
It is invisible until it’s used.
In fact, it doesn’t need to be packed, as once you have it you have a hard time getting rid of it.
It’s called SKILL.
Skill is what turns a small prop like a deck of cards into an impressive manip1 segment.
To put more of a point on this, I’m not talking about the kind of skill that goes unseen, like our magic secrets. I’m talking about a particular skill subset and type of routines where the audience openly can appreciate our skill.
When a magician performs a solid book test, the audience may be baffled, but there’s usually not a perception of this kind of skill. The audience is simply amazed.
When a magician performs a well routined card manip segment or …
a juggling type routine like the hoop and glass routine or …
a memory routine (mental skill) or …
a magic square — see Reign Man (more mental skill) …
the magician is showing skill.
In his fantastic lecture notes, the late Denny Haney talked about the placement of a manip piece in his show. He mentioned how he went from opening with a manip routine to following the example of Johnny Aladdin. He performed his manip segment later in his show, after his opener and audience participation routines. He wrote, “This was the formula for the club date act I would follow all my life.”
After following Denny’s advice and performing a skill piece late in my show I noticed an additional benefit. The audience’s appreciation for the skill I displayed was much greater because they already knew me and already like me. All because I listened to Denny. Denny was so great.
This has crossover value to pack big & play big goals, because few things pack smaller than skill.
Additionally, few things give you more bang for your buck on stage than skill. In close up magic, skill is something that is more easily displayed. Even the easiest cutting to the aces routine can get a response of “I wouldn’t want to play cards with you.” The perception of skill gets the performer beyond the crass assumption of “it’s just a trick” that might be in some spectator’s minds.
On stage, a skill piece accomplishes that same thing. Plus, if sold correctly, like any other routine it can share part of the performer’s personality. Denny Haney introduced his manip segment with a memory of watching the Ed Sullivan Show as a kid. This introduction gave the audience a glimpse into Denny’s personality and provided motivation for the manip routine. In his hands, it was more than “watch me show off.” It was “let me share something that is special to me and I’m sure it will be special to you.”
Bottom Line: A skill routine can pack small, play impressive, and add more variety and more you to a show.
Until Next Time,
PS: If you’d like to learn many, many MORE ways to pack small and play HUGE to the back of the room, order my new book, The Show Is The Mother Of Invention. As of August 28, 2023, the first printing is almost sold out with only about 20 books left. Act now!
PS#2 If you’re looking for a great packs small plays huge SKILL routine, check out Reign Man, the KING of All Magic Square Routines!
1More formally, a manipulation routine, but I’ve always used and heard the term “manip” when talking with other magicians, so that’s what I’ll use here.