New Material Nightmare: Time to break in Panic…again!

“Hey Aaron, isn’t Panic already in your show?”

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It’s been said before, but it’s really hard to learn magic. I’ve performed my new effect Panic hundreds of times in paid shows. but by ‘grown up’ standards, it’s still a new trick.

What do I mean by that? Simple. Until you’ve done a trick about a hundred times in every conceivable circumstance, it’s still green. When you throw a paying audience into the mix, strange and terrible things can still go wrong at any time.

Here’s a list of situations where I’ve TRULY broken in my new card trick Panic:

  • Informal close-up in or behind a bar, on the street. For friends and strangers.
  • Formal close-up strolling/walk around.
  • Formal parlor-situations.
  • Stage.

The challenge: Next week I’m performing 21 shows in the Close-Up Theater at Hollywood’s famed nightclub, The Magic Castle. In the real world, formal close-up situations are few and far between. Magic Castle close-up conditions are the exception, not the rule. To take a look inside the building and get some idea of what I mean, take a quick tour

New Conditions Need New Choices

It’s Friday night and I’m not going anywhere – I’ve got work to do. In the next two days I’ve got to figure out how to introduce a new trick into a well established mix.

My solution needs to satisfy certain conditions:

  • Panic needs to carry it’s weight. It needs to add something to the show overall.
  • Panic needs to add to the overall continuity of the set. Every trick should be part of the same show.
  • The audience shouldn’t notice that one trick is less developed than all the others.
  • This should go without saying – even on the first show Monday night, PANIC must be deceptive. If I succeed here, I’ll have the peace of mind to fix any other problems during the course of the week.
  • No matter where Panic fits in the set, I must have a truly effective method for ‘getting into it’. I’ll also need an exit strategy.

Those are the issues that spring to mind immediately. I’m sure the next week will bring new itches to scratch. In truth, I already have a pretty good idea of how I’m going to approach these challenges. But…

I haven’t decided anything yet. Right now, you know as much as I do.


Now it’s your turn. If you’ve ever had to break in new material when it counts, you’re qualified to participate.

Can you think of any other problems I may have to solve if I don’t want to suffer all week long? Anything else I need to consider?

Drop a comment and let me know. I’ll check in a few times this weekend to see what you’ve come up with!

I love magic. You get to travel the world and have amazing experiences on stage. But breaking in new material always feels like crossing river through hell. Maybe together we can build some better oars.


Aaron Fisher

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16 Responses to “New Material Nightmare: Time to break in Panic…again!”

  1. 1 Twozwozer October 6, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Ive just got Panic, and I think I have the basic handling sorted, only problem is, I’m not 100% sure, I really need to test it out on someone, but if I screw it up, that will be a bum, because it’s going to be my opener, and if you screw that up, your spectators will lose all hope in you.

    Wish Me Luck,


  2. 2 Matt October 6, 2007 at 11:45 am


    I was reading what you said about introducing panic into your show. If you can, gain access to the room where you will be performing and work through the minutia of the performance a few times. Rehearse it in the very empty room that you will using to perform later on.

    Here’s where it becomes unique. Now… to an empty room, teach it. Go step by step through your performance, explain the patter, show the angles, explain why a hand is held this way and not that. Talk to the room as if you were teaching a classroom of us. This will cement your performance and uncover areas you hadn’t ever thought were a problem up to that point.

    Hope that helps,



  3. 3 aaronfishermagic October 6, 2007 at 1:24 pm


    You’ve got the situation exactly – Until we
    try the trick out before a live audience, we’ll NEVER be sure.

    And you’ve hit a crucial nail on the head too. A new trick, if unsuccessful, does double the damage as your opener – for the reasons you well explained

    In my next post, I’ll let you know just where i’m thinking of putting the effect in my next show. The answer may surprise you!


    And Good Luck! Tell us how it goes…

  4. 4 aaronfishermagic October 6, 2007 at 1:32 pm


    Excellent point! It’s lucky for me on this one that I’ve worked in the room ten times before – roughly 200 shows. The good news is, I really know the angles and energy of the room. Thats probably why I’m Not Working so hard on the show this week that i can’t blog about it at the same time.

    As for the second point, that sounds like a great idea. I’ve often talked my way through the show as i stage it in a new space, but never the full lecture approach. It sounds like it might really help you to move slowly through all the points, and in so doing, make sure you’ve got everything covered.


  5. 5 Rosemary Eve October 6, 2007 at 5:21 pm


    I think you’ve prepared yourself well. You’ve performed the trick casually, and at paid events. You may still have felt pressure but probably not quite as much as you’ll be feeling Monday night. I find that one of the worst situations to perform a new trick for the first time in, is (quite obviously) the highest pressure situation you can find. You’ve attained some level of confidence with the trick already and that will really help give you time to focus on the other things that you listed as important.

    The next thing is, you actually thought about what you need to do and made a list. You wrote it down so you can actually SEE what you need to be thinking about, and the solutions you need to come up with. Lists are often overlooked, especially in unconvential situations like ‘What conditions my new trick has to satisfy’. I find it can really help to get the stuff you need to think about out of your brain (even if it does just go on your blog).
    Confidence and organization – two great ways you’ve helped yourself out for Monday night.

    The next step obviously is that you’re going to come up with solid solutions to those thoughts you listed. Which will give you more ‘theoretical’ confidence while performing because you know that you have thought abuot and found solutions for all of that stuff.

    It looks to me like you’ve done a pretty good job of preparation already. The only new thought I have is that, you’re hilarious, and when messing up a trick, that can REALLY work to your advantage. I’m not saying that messing up Panic at The Magic Castle is fine as long as you can make a joke about it, but you can at least remember you have that just in case something goes wrong. And you’re breaking out this new effect with a whole bunch of other ones that you already really KNOW. So if something does go wrong, you will know what trick to do next, what might cover up whatever you’ve done wrong best etc. After working at a restaurant for a while and really knowing my routines it was easy for me to subsitute one trick for another if I thought (or knew) the first one wasn’t working out.

    Goodluck Aaron! I’m sure you’ll be great.


  6. 6 Geoff October 6, 2007 at 7:59 pm


    Do you have your segues into Panic or are you just going to launch into it?

    Do you have a segue from Panic into your next effect?

    These would be some of my considerations.

    Break a leg in the Close-Up Gallery,


  7. 7 Doc Eason October 6, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Aaron… the only exception I might make with your assessment of how long it takes to break something in …

    Sheets once said to me that you have to do a trick a thousand times before it is yours.. I firmly believe that.. 100 times, you have the flow down, 500, you are smoothing it out… and by the thousandth time, it is yours.. nearly everything that can happen during the performance happens..

    And if you have ever spent time with Bob, you know he is working it ALL THE TIME. I mentioned recently that Bob was at MITR in Ft Collins and evertime Isaw him he was doing the same three tricks.. getting flight time on them… So if you subscribe to the ‘thousand time rule”, you will note that he did that trick at least twenty times during the day of the convention.

    As far as where it fits in the show…and whether they know it is a new one or not…when I would work a new trick in at the Tower, I would wait til I had just ‘killed’ them with something from the repertoire, then try the new one… SOmetimes I would mention this is new sometimes I wouldn’t .. .the point is once they like you (and they should after you have entertained em with the A material … ) the crowd is amazingly sympathetic and forgiving… If they are fans they really seem to like being the guinea pigs for something new. so it is not a bad thing to admit that the trick is a new one. It sorta ‘let’s them backstage’ a bit and they think they are ‘in on the ground floor’..

    There is a local… (well, he has moved away but when he makes a return trip…) and he WAS in on the early stages of my three card monte routine. Since he saw working on it, I have done it about 7 thousand times.. but everytime ii would finish it up and walk down the bar, he would would make a big deal and pipe up and announce that he saw me do that 25years ago, when I was first workingit up.. HE remembered it and was thrilled to have been in on the early work.

  8. 8 Adam Sachs October 7, 2007 at 12:23 am


    I agree with your list of considerations
    for new material, and I hope that you inspire more people to think more and to think harder about what they’re doing when they’re performing. It pays off. One point that’s not on your list that I always consider before working a trick into a set is: what’s the fundamental effect? Not whether it’s a card trick or coin trick, but what the magic itself is. Is it a transposition? A transformation? A vanish? A restoration? An impossible location? When I structure a set, I try not to repeat fundamental effects, unless there’s a strong reason. There’s much more, much of which you’ve said, but that point wasn’t on your list, and I think
    it’s worth considering.


  9. 9 aaronfishermagic October 7, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Hey Doc –

    I think we’re actually on the same page here. As I said, I’ve done the trick at least a hundred times in each of four or five different situations…So by that score, I DO feel it takes about a thousand. For the purposes of this discussion, i was dividing the reps by context. I completely agree with master Sheets – 1000 times puts you pretty close to bullet proof!

    With Thanks,

    ps- Doc Has also reiterated a comment here regarding the danger’s of opening with a trick. If you DO have a problem, it a little tougher to recover. Once you’ve got em – it’s a lot easier to hold them!

  10. 10 aaronfishermagic October 7, 2007 at 12:42 am

    Adam is right on here – it’s important to make sure you’re not repeating the same effect over and over in different dressing.
    If you do make such a choice, it’s important that it was deliberate, and that you have a certain goal you’re trying to achieve rough the decision.

    In a short twenty minute show, I find this a pretty easy solve. Once you start to work 45-60 minutes, it gets little harder. If you want to know what I mean, check out the Lance Burton show.


  11. 11 Jamie Sanden October 7, 2007 at 3:43 am


    The only thing that comes to mind that you haven’t mentioned is style. When I look at new material I, like many magicians, can like the idea of something without considering if it fits my style, just because it “looks cool.” Doc Dixon said in Everything Is Funnier With Monkeys (I’m paraphrasing because I just looked through it and couldn’t find the quote) “Sometimes I want to do a dove act, then I remember who I am.” The point is, your approach as an artist should be consistent in everything you do.

    But honestly I think you would have noticed if Panic didn’t fit our style by now. But my attention with my own magic at the moment is not on fitting an effect in my act that I’ve done 500 times. It’s getting over the stage fright to try new magic in front of anybody at all. I’ve done the same 7 effects for so long, it’s difficult for me to try anything new because it pales in comparison. But that’s only natural because I have done those 7 effects the requisite 1000 times. I just hate the developmental stage. I’d love to see a conversation on that (subtle, eh? : ) )

    Break a leg next week! And I’m lovin’ the blog…


  12. 12 Matt G. October 7, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Hey Aaron,

    I understand completely what you mean, I also hate breaking in new effects. But from what I’ve seen from Panic I can tell it’s a great effect and you are a pro at doing it. You created it so you know more about the trick then anyone on the planet. Now I’m not to sure where this trick is in terms of what is before it and what follows but I’m sure you have something in mind. Also, will the audience consist of mostly magicians or mostly laymen? If I were in your situation I would do a simple transposition (2 cards), then 1up it by doing Panic which proves that you can transpo anything, and then finish with a deck color change (red back to blue). Plus don’t forget you are performing at the magic castle. Everybody there has a passion for magic and loves to see magic so focus on giving everyone a night of fun which they will remember. It’s a tough world out there but I know you will do great. Good Luck at the Castle.

    P.S. It’s my birthday next week and I’m getting a copy of your book, The Paper Engine.;)

    From your friend,

    Matt G.

  13. 13 aaronfishermagic October 7, 2007 at 8:40 pm


    New material bootcamp! GOT IT! Sounds like a great topic to me – we’ll get into it. But, it sounds like you’ve got enough material to throw something new in the middle any time.

    After all, it’s the FIRST show that enough to beat a man to death. 3-5 new tricks all together, with nothing strong to rescue you. Now it’s much easier. Pick a new trick, throw it in the middle, and work like hell to make sure nobody knows the difference.

    For me, the real part isn’t that i’m breaking in a trick – it’s that it’s a creative process. I will likely have to change the effect, method AND presentation several times before it starts to meld into a piece of magic. Such is life…….


  14. 14 aaronfishermagic October 7, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for the kind words. Yes, it’s true – I’ve done Panic a bunch. But I felt this small challenge was a great example of the kind of problem a magician faces ANY time he wants to make a change to his show. The problems may seem small, but since this is my actually career, I really like to do good work. Breaking in new material is not pleasant – but if you want to break in new material during a paid show, it get EVEN more complicated. After all, no one is paying you to learn new stuff. They pay you to rock.

    Second, these combinations you have here are fine. I like them, and have a bunch of similar ones, and a few that aren’t.

    For me, the hard part isn’t knowing what can be done. It’s knowing what i WANT to do. This approach has been good for my creative process – because when i think in terms of what I WANT TO DO, i often find there’s a missing puzzle piece. Something I can create to fill solve a real problem – not just another example of ‘stuff you could do with this’.

    So – these are some interesting applications you’ve got. Do they work for you?

    Thanks for the great thoughts,


  15. 15 Matt G. October 8, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    “So – these are some interesting applications you’ve got. Do they work for you?”

    Well I don’t own Panic yet but if I did I’m pretty sure I would fit it in the way I described. It seems to flow well with the rest of my show. I have not really seen you perform that much (I could only find a couple of videos on the internet), if you you some videos of one of your shows I’d like to see it.;)

  1. 1 Want to break in a new piece? Choose the right position! « Trackback on October 7, 2007 at 9:36 pm

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