Talking about tricks and texture!

Last week I gave some ideas about adding dynamics to your show and this week I am going to finish my thoughts by discussing adding texture. This double approach can be very successful in giving a good make over to any show. Let’s begin with a dictionary definition


The feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface or a substance: skin texture and tone | the cheese is firm in texture | the different colors and textures of bark.

The quality created by the combination of the different elements in a work of music or literature.

In my last blog entry we discussed dynamics it was more focused on the audio aspect of these two concepts, as this was the direction that the word generally points to. As you might guess from the definition of texture, our thoughts are moving this week into a more tactile direction. Texture is usually associated with fabric or material. Material is something we can definitely discuss in our performance make over!

Last week I concentrated on what is said/how it is said in a show. By extension the statements also could be applied to the music that you use to complete the presentation of your show. Now let’s talk about the different tricks that create the structure of your performance. Everything said here can be applied to any kind of magic show. An easy simplification of the concept of texture is to think of it as variety. When you are putting together a show you need to create a nice varied collection of effects to capture your audiences’ heart, mind and attention.

Your presence and persona can create a unifying effect over the show but the show itself needs to be created from a broad spectrum of elements and effects.

looked at my show one day and realized it primarily consisted of ‘torn and restored’ and  ‘restoration’ effects. I guess they really appealed to me and initially I even half way convinced myself that there was a theme going on in my show. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the act needed a few other effects to be a rounded presentation. I created a less lopsided menu for myself, and the show really improved as a result. The curious part was that I wasn’t consciously aware how many similar effects had bonded together in my show in the first place; I guess it happened gradually.

If you are doing a close-up show you might want to check that you aren’t top heavy with card tricks. I love card tricks but many people get turned off after two or three in a row. You can achieve a much more textured effect by adding a coin or a ring trick into the mix. By planning out the show in this manner you can make it much more varied and appealing, especially to a lay audience.

Even if you perform a dedicated ‘all-card show,’ the principle is the same. Don’t do six ‘pick a card’ tricks in a row, but instead combine a selection of different styled tricks to comprise your show. You can apply some of the variations described in the next paragraph to add texture to this hypothetical card show.

What are some of the basic values that can be assigned to a trick/effect when using your mental paintbrush to create a rounded

performance?  A trick can be funny or serious, short or long, or any of a thousand variations between these opposites. It can be surprising, amusing, unusual, romantic, shocking, cerebral, scary, beautiful, classical etc. etc. Of course it isn’t really any of these things until you make it so and this is what makes an infinite variety possible to all performers.

Some of the classifications you want to watch out for when composing your show are ‘repetitive’ and ‘boring!’ Sometimes, of course, you need to employ repetition to make a trick work— the 6 Card Repeat wouldn’t be very effective if you only performed the basic effect once. However, the fact that you need repetition doesn’t mean that you can’t guard against boredom sneaking in to it. When performing this rather standard trick I introduce a little variation into the proceedings by suddenly finding I have 3 cards and throwing away 6 cards only to find I still have 3 cards. I then revert to the standard method of having 6 cards and throwing away 6.

That is a simple example of how to introduce texture within a single trick. It keeps the audience watching more closely and interested in what you are doing. The same applies to the overall show. Are all the tricks you are performing about the same length in timing? This is a very easy habit to fall into and even easier to cure. Throw in a couple of shorter tricks to break up the pacing a little.

I used to write all the facts, timings, props etc associated with a trick on index cards and put them into box in three groups—openers, middles and closers. I would then create my show by shuffling the index cards into different sequences. I might look at the cards and realize that three tricks in a row involved audience participation—time to shuffle the cards or swap them around. You really could analyze and structure your show this way. Of course, now I use the Bento program on my computer, but the process is identical.

I hope these musings have been of some interest and maybe even given you a fresh insight into adding some dynamics and texture to your show!

~ by Nick Lewin on June 30, 2012.

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