Talking about pocket management.
I always enjoy reading what Bill Abbott has to say about magic and the performance of it. He has a really fine line of show-ready effects to add to your act available on his website billabbottmagic.com and he also has a fund of great magical information that he makes available via his blog. He is one of the most focused thinkers around.
Quite often Abbott raises provocative and extremely interesting topics on his Facebook page too— there is a novelty! Yesterday I read with interest a thread that developed on the topic of pocket management. A very important factor that is seldom mentioned in magic literature and I wanted to discuss it briefly here. Thank you Bill for raising this issue in Facebook, I hope my thoughts on this subject may be of some use to my readers.
Bill shared a lovely quote by legendary magician Bob Sheets, “Most magicians look like 6 pounds of nuts in a 4 pound bag!” It made me laugh out loud at the accuracy of the vision. In many cases it is not uncommon to see performers so laden with props in their pockets that they just look weird and misshapen. Bill added on his timeline; “I’ve always loved the expression because it exactly describes the visual experience that audiences are subjected to when a performer overcompensates with props for a lack of careful planning and pocket management.”
I couldn’t agree more with both Bob and Bill on this extremely unsightly situation. If you have so many props distributed throughout your wardrobe that it is visually unappealing then you need to think about carrying them in some other way. I have seen every variation of ways to carry props: cases, bags, waist pouches, holsters and even violin cases! A little thought can help create a very creative and effective solution that can improve your personal appearance enormously. It can also make the presentation of those tricks a lot more effective.
I believe that there is nothing slicker in magic than a performer who can entertain you using only props that are contained in his pockets. I call it the McComb show, because for a long period Billy McComb used to walk out onstage in a beautifully cut suit and perform a full-length stage show with props that somehow fitted in his pockets/suit without a single unsightly bulge. I always considered it the pinnacle of elegant professionalism, and after many years of careful thought can now do the same. It is a great feeling!
One of the very first things you need to think about is the physical pockets that are part of your working outfit. For a very small investment you can have a seamstress add pockets, divisions in pockets and other ways to make the job easier of concealing your working tools. It is a tiny investment that can pay big dividends. I personally choose my suits with the pockets firmly fixed in my mind. Generally speaking the changes I need to make are minimal. Your mileage may differ!
The other thing that needs to be mentioned in connection with pocket management is the vital factor of actually knowing what order you need to use the props contained in your pockets. Nothing looks worse than seeing a performer rummaging through his pockets to unearth a small prop that has been buried under a mound of bigger props. It just looks bad. A little pre-thought can almost always solve this problem.
Bad pocket management as just described doesn’t just look bad but can prove to be disastrous. I once added a trick to my second show that involved pulling a folded bandana (no NOT banana!) out of my pants pocket. I performed the show and much to my amazement and dismay at a latter point in the proceedings when I reached into that same pocket to steal my Himber Ring — it wasn’t there! I quickly surmised the problem and realized that it must have flipped out my pocket when I removed the bandana. Fortunately I not only had a spare ring in another pocket but later found my other ring lying on the floor at the position in the audience where I had removed the bandana.
I think the very first step in addressing the problem is to take a moment or two before walking in front of your audience and realistically appraising how you look. This is a simple action that allows you to decide if you need to explore the topic further. My general rule of thumb is that if a dove worker can go onstage fully loaded with eight doves and no bulges, then a close-up performer should be able to do a little strolling magic without looking like he is carrying his worldly possessions in his pockets!