Archive for September, 2007

Theory 11, One-on-One and the Perfect Pass

I just got back from Chico, California, where I spent three exciting days with Dana Hocking and Wayne Houchin. We shot some exciting material for the new instant download section of the T11 site.

The One-on-One concept allows you to download sleight-of-hand lessons from some of close-up magic’s most exciting creators. For example, Chris Kenner recently released for the first time on video both the 4 for 4 switch and Threefry.

I decided to contribute an invisible pass called the out-jogged Hermann pass, first described in my book The Paper Engine back in 2002. Teaching such advanced material on video gave me the welcome chance to consider how we might best apply the classic techniques of magic.

Today I’ll give you a few tips to help you unlock one of the most intriguing riddles in sleight of hand – the pass.

Is The Pass the best card control?

Often, students attempt to execute the pass under extremely challenging conditions. It’s never been enough to execute the shift silently and efficiently. If you don’t know when to use a shift, you’re missing most of the value. Your pass will only shine if you use it in the proper context.

Most experts tend to avoid using the pass under the following conditions:

  • As a control – Even though this is the most common application, it’s often not a good idea. The moment the spectator places his card back into the deck, he’s watching very closely. Until he’s satisfied that everything is fair, your pass will be vulnerable. Many times the deck will need to be shuffled anyway – that makes the shift redundant.
  • As a color change – For years I thought this was an awesome application of the pass. These days, I think not. When you perform the pass, you don’t want any focus on the deck. A color change, in order to be appreciated, demands you draw attention to the pack. It’s simply not a good time to use the pass. Consider a side steal instead.

When should you use the Pass?

When you start performing the pass under less pressure, you’ll likely experience a new degree of success. You’ll relax, and your pass will start to achieve a softness you never thought possible. Once you’ve developed that light touch, you’ll keep it when you start applying the shift under more challenging circumstances.

Look to apply your pass under these inviting conditions:

  • Use the Classic Pass – after you’ve glimpsed the bottom card as a key and you need to move it to the center of the deck. This is one of Lee Asher’s favorite applications.
  • Use the Turnover Pass – after spreading through the face-up pack.
  • Use the classic pass – for set up and clean up. There is no heat – it’s safe to make the shift.

No matter when you choose to use the pass, always remember this: When you can hold the spectators gaze for a moment and the heat is off, only then is it time to make the shift! Happy Practicing!

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Want to do great close-up magic? Restaurant magic can help.


If you want to learn the real secrets of performing close up magic for a paying audience, get yourself a gig performing table side in a restaurant. ‘Table hopping’, as it’s called, allows you to work for a steady stream of fresh audiences – that’s the only way to learn the true craft of sleight-of-hand magic.

Here’s a partial list of the personality types you’ll meet and the lessons you can learn from each:

  • Polite people cause you to be overconfident

  • Honest people break your heart – but your magic improves

  • Cultured audiences laugh at intelligent jokes

  • Simple folks don’t.

  • People who love magic are easy.

  • People who hate magic are not

  • People that haven’t decided make it your responsibility to help them see the light.

  • People you just can’t win over – ultimately THIS number should be no more than 10%. They’ll teach you patience, and most importantly, when to leave.

Whether your hope is to travel the world working corporate events, perform at private parties in your region or rock out street magic on TV, you’ll always value your time in the trenches. You’ll learn close-up magic the old fashioned way – one audience at a time. And most importantly, you’ll develop the countless little touches you’ll need to conquer every situation.


Books about ‘restaurant magic’ will only take you so far. If you really want to know how it’s done you’ve got to experience it for yourself. Get good tricks. Then, when you encounter trouble, you’ll know not to blame the material.

Check out work from these top restaurant men. They each have a different style and work a different scene – try and study them all.

David Stone

Nathan Kranzo

Mike Skinner

Matt SchulienAn article with good Schulien info

Eddie Fechter

Bill Malone

Doc Eason

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Considering a life in magic? Think Twice!

I’ve been back from Canada for almost a week and Summer Camp still sits fresh in my mind. Some have been campers at Sorcerer’s Safari for years – these days they miss camp for gigs, just like their counselors sometimes must. A bunch are getting ready to start University. Like Ricky Martin, their time in Menudo runs short. A few want to know – should they consider a career in magic? Should they study Theater? Maybe they should go on the road instead and learn hands-on from a real professional?


Photo by Carey Lauder

The following story will be helpful not just to students considering the future, but their sensible parents as well.

At 17, I made my own choice about college with little delay or concern. I would go to study the theater – and very little else. Older people warned me that a back up plan would be wise. I didn’t want to hear it. I’d read an essay by David Mamet, written for young actors that argued ‘back up’ plans as self fulfilling prophesies. I was sold.

I made the call with no regrets. Those came later.

I still believe Mamet had it right. Professional magicians need many things to excel, but a back up plan isn’t one of them. You’ll need business acumen, marketing skills and internet savvy – and that’s just the beginning. You crazy kids will say there’s nothing to worry about. Of course! You’ll have people to do those things for you. That may be true – I hope it is. But in any case, you can still expect a fair amount of time to pass before you find yourself such enviable circumstances. Even then you’ll have to direct your team and talk about meta-tags with your webmaster. You’ll always have to negotiate with your agent.

If, like me, you enjoy comedy, read that last sentence again.

Many of the campers at Sorcerer’s Safari have already become incredible performers. So can you. Your craft and love for our art will serve you well, but it won’t be enough. Seek a well-rounded, practical education as well. You’re going to have to earn your dreams.


Aaron Fisher

Theory11, my new trick Panic and why you should care.

Panic Box

As many of you may already know, my new trick ‘PANIC!’ was unveiled last Friday night at I’m exceedingly proud of the trick, so before you read further, go and watch the video so you have a frame of reference. Then come back for a discussion about the trick, and my thoughts as to why Theory11 may represent an important shift in the quality of magic education.


Panic easily stands as my most significant release since The Paper Engine was published in 2002. The DVD is beautifully produced, both in terms of the packaging and the contents. More importantly, Panic may be the most commercial effect I’ve ever put out. In this case, commercial doesn’t mean merely ‘effective as a magic product’, though that’s certainly true as well. Rather, the piece demonstrates clearly how real world performing experience can lead to simpler, more efficient magic. It’s the most powerful effect I’ve ever shared with the community – I wanted the teaching on the DVD to be as effective as the trick itself.

For that reason, I’ve been forced to ask the same question as everyone else. What exactly is Theory And the truth is – I’m not entirely sure. We can all see the site involves a bunch of talented guys with real passion and serious ideas about magic. But for me personally, T11 represents a mysterious, exciting experiment.

How things will evolve I can’t truly say, because what’s being attempted here hasn’t been really tried before. Sure, several companies in the last few years have had great success selling magic tricks. Some of these companies have even sold quality material. But now, serious magicians are trying to discover whether this internet technology, so effective for business, can also be used to actually improve magic and the quality of its practitioners. For that reason, I find this whole process thrilling. Several of the players are my heroes – members of the real A team. And finally, they’re not just sitting around complaining about the state of things. They’ve stepped inside in the ring, reputations on the line, attempting to affect real change in the field we all care so deeply about.


One Piece at a Time – Details make the Magic

Panic Freak Out


As any experienced magic student will tell you, it takes an awful lot of work to find good material, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Companies sell tricks, ideas, methods and variations by the pound. If the student assumes he’s receiving a giant tomb of brand new, quality material, he will likely find himself disappointed. Many magic creators have great ideas, but find themselves under pressure, often self imposed, to release a greater percentage of their output than perhaps they ought to. I don’t exclude myself from this criticism. As many great comedians have noted, to write three good jokes, a good writer might reasonably pump out 97 others that never see the light of day. Perhaps we in magic should more often work toward this exacting standard.



Like other recent, successful companies in our industry, the gang at T11 has discovered that the current crop of young magicians responds well to ‘single item’ releases. Many magic students today would rather learn one astounding effect in a focused way – rather then spend valuable time sifting through some guy’s dairy from the month before. We all get exposed to so many ideas every day, perhaps we’re trying to make careful choices about what we invest our time in. The alternative might be to crumble under the weight of the knowledge work incumbent in the information age.


Some will complain that it’s a mistake to hold back the countless variations we love so much. These passionate students might argue that the sheer volume of ideas presented by one such as Ed Marlo (even excluding disputed ones) allows sleight of hand students to better appreciate the depth of the possibilities presented to us when we work with cards.

Panic Logo

Frankly, I sympathize with this romantic point of view. But then I think about the resonance we find in the work of Vernon. Much of his magic was described somewhat poorly by Lewis Ganson, yet his work remains iconic. It seems his decision to present only one or two solutions to a given problem actually worked. People got the message – do all the research, and then release the very best solution you can. At least partly for this reason, his small books on card magic stand out as some of the century’s finest volumes, regardless of their diminutive size.


Almost all of us can agree that magicians have access to plenty of material already. We further likely agree that the key to improving our work lies in developing fully the material we already have access to – not in the acquisition of more tricks.

Girls watching


In this regard, the ‘single item’ release model can conceivably help us all. To communicate magic lessons effectively requires patience, a slow hand and a long time. Too often, magic creators present their ideas quickly and use a ‘bare bones’ approach. That only makes sense – they’re presenting so many ideas that anyone would have trouble packing them all in. The student often comes away having witnessed twenty ideas, but finds himself later confused when he can’t make even the simplest version play as well as he hoped.


Ideally, when you release one piece at a time, you force yourself to choose your best item. Now you’ve got a piece worth teaching, your task comes into focus – to communicate every nuance of the effect, presentation and handling. Now, the student can gain enough confidence from your instruction to take the effect out of the basement and into the world. Of course, from this first step, the student gains only more questions. Hopefully, if you’ve done the job correctly, his dawning concerns have been anticipated. He can go back to the source, and find all the information he needs.

As of this writing, I am happy to report that Theory 11 supports these values. They not only wanted to release my trick, but they were more than supportive in allowing me to teach my magic the best way I know how. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have chosen to work with them.


All over the world, passionate, thoughtful people care about improving the quality of magic performance. For anyone who shares these values, the emergence of T11 holds wonderful promise. Finally, we might be a getting closer to a viable model for teaching magic in the 21st century – modern technology, combined with detailed lessons, taught by people who actually know.


I’m sure many of you will have ideas related to these issues. First, make sure to go and watch the demo of Panic and check out Theory11. Even though the site just launched, you’ll find plenty of ideas to explore. Then drop a comment here, or on T11’s new forum or both. It’s useful to write down your ideas. Not only will it help you clarify your own thoughts and beliefs – it will help people like me deliver content you can use. If we can really understand each others ideas, then everyone creates better magic.


Aaron Fisher