Want to break in a new piece? Choose the right position!

As I wrote in my last post, New Material Nightmare: Time to break in Panic…again!, I have to choose by tomorrow where to position my new effect Panic in my upcoming close-up shows at the Magic Castle. In this case timing and structure are everything. I know the trick works well, as I’ve performed it many times in a wide variety of situations. But as far as making the trick fit effectively in my overall set, I have three choices. They each have their benefits, challenges and considerations.

The Opener

If you place a new trick in this vital position, you’d better have a good reason for it. The opener is your first ‘magical’ impression on the audience. It has to work properly, or you’ll find yourself playing catch-up just two minutes into the show. Even if you suspect your new effect will work beautifully as an opener, you’ll probably want to break it in elsewhere first.

The Closer

Traditional wisdom dictates that the only part of your show that has to be even stronger than your opener is your closer. For that reason, new tricks shouldn’t really be in the closing position. You can make exceptions to this rule, but not very often.

The Middle

As Doc Eason pointed out in a comment on my last post, the middle of the show will almost always be the best time to work a new trick. Once you’ve got the audience on your side, you can easily withstand the natural lull in the show that comes with a new piece. Most likely, the audience won’t even know.

And as Doc rightly pointed out, if you’re positive audience will know your next trick is new, and you’ve already got them on your side, it’s quite safe to let them in on it.

I’d much rather tell people to ‘get ready for something brand new’, then try and pretend my way through the show . One thing audiences don’t like is being lied to. If you have some good reason for being uncomfortable, you’re much better off copping to it then pretending it’s not happening. Make a joke. Move on. All will be well.

Your Turn

If you’ve seen the effect Panic on the Theory 11 site, you’ve got what you need to join the discussion.

Assume you’ve already broken in Panic: You know how to do it, and you’ve done it enough times to be reasonably comfortable with it in any position.

Would you open with it, put it in the middle or at the end of the show? More importantly, why? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

By this time tomorrow, I’ll have made my final decision. At least for next week…


Aaron Fisher

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12 Responses to “Want to break in a new piece? Choose the right position!”

  1. 1 Jared October 8, 2007 at 5:32 am

    As a closer it is a strong trick and is hard to follow. Maybe an opener but may be easy for the audience to say there were fours cards the whole time

  2. 2 Tim October 8, 2007 at 6:24 am

    Hey nice, and nice topic as I am constantly trying to tweak my own show and working on the order of my sets…
    I think it should go in the middle or the beginning. I want to know what you are going to do with the four kings once they are revealed. Seems to me that they can be used in something else since they are now in your hands. Perhaps a twisting the kings effect or an Asher Twist using the Kings or???
    For this reason, having them still in your hands, I wouldn’t use it as my closer.
    All the best!

  3. 3 Jay October 8, 2007 at 11:49 am

    I don’t worry about opener, middle, close. I try to find a place in the act that would allow the trick fit in. Something that leads into and out of a trick. Or something that sets it up. Then it seems like a natural place for the effect to be.

  4. 4 Stan Twigge October 8, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    I have ‘Panic’ and it is a powerful effect, so unless you have something that is stronger, then it has to be a closer, your audience would be looking for a blinding finish if you did it in the middle, so unless you can surpass ‘Panic’ then it has to be a closer.

  5. 5 markjens October 8, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I am sorry to say that I’m not familiar with your act enough to give an educated answer. If your query concerns ABSOLUTE first or last, unless you can answer those Professor questions of how to get in or out, I’d go for the middle. It is likely you’d be able to get in and out of an effect like Panic in the midst of your act, especially as adept as you are with an audience. I suspect that if you announce that you have something new to show, you’ll not say it for long, because as soon as you quit having reservations about this ‘new’ effect, it will be ‘balls to the wall.’ It is a great effect for laymen and magicians alike, and you’ve nothing to worry about. Heck, if those among us wish to backward – engineer a trick, they’re going to do it. But it will be their loss, for Panic is a great effect to experience instead of ruining it by getting left brain about it.

    Take care,
    North Bend, WA

  6. 6 Rosemary Eve October 8, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Am I correct in saying that you don’t do anything with the four kings after the deck has dissapeared? If you don’t have anything planned for the kings then I would use it as a closer.
    If you use it as an opener, it is a very strong effect, but the deck disappears and you need to bring it back again to continue with your routine. The same problem occurs in the middle. However I think it’s perfect as a closer. It’s strong enough to hold it’s weight and amaze your audience, the deck dissapears at the end and you say ‘thanks, that’s all’.

  7. 7 Tony Noice October 8, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Aaron,
    One point that I haven’t seen made is that Aaron Fisher is the world’s greatest expert on Aaron fisher. A good performer without well-honed theatrical instincts is a contradiction in terms. I think Panic should go where YOU feel it should go. Then, after a few shows in the venue, if the new conditions make you change your mind, I’m sure you will know that too. Sometimes we overanalyze things. A philosopher named Max Eastman once wrote a scholarly book on comedy. Robert Benchley, reviewing it in the New Yorker, said, “Eastman has got humor down and has broken its arm.”
    Enjoy your opening tonight!

  8. 8 Jamie Sanden October 8, 2007 at 7:38 pm


    I definitely wouldn’t open with Panic as I think the handling is too cozy and the kings don’t make sense right out of the gate (I know audiences probably don’t care about the kings, but I think they could appreciate the effect more if they were justified; more on that in a moment.) I think the opening should be more about introducing you and your magic and Panic has too much focus on the effect alone.

    I would only put Panic at the end if the kings were a callback of some kind (they vanished earlier and never reappeared; you did a routine with them at the heart of the act then put them away; you mention kings throughout the act (a theme), etc.) because otherwise I think the kings leave a couple of unanswered questions (Why didn’t the kings go? What’s he going to do with the kings?)

    As for where in the middle, I think the 2 main questions are what comes before and what comes after. I try to look for organic, logical or fluid transitions, especially for something as focused and idiosyncratic as Panic. For example, if you vanished the deck in a less visual manner than Panic (any of the standard deck vanishes), you could then do it again “under challenge conditions.” As for what follows it, I’d want to use the kings in some manner, i.e. a 4 king routine (“twisting the kings”, “collectors”, something like that). I just think the disappearance of everything BUT the kings asks for the kings to be used in some manner.

    I realize my ideas require more reworking of the entire act than you are probably interested in at this juncture, but they are what I would consider when placing Panic in my show.

    Break a leg!

  9. 9 Alex Rossi October 8, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    I would Panic as an opener. Why? Maybe it’s just me but you said that an opener is your first magical impression on a layperson. And I think Panic would leave a pretty deep impression on someone. And plus the fact that it is super easy makes me wanna do it more.

  10. 10 Matt G. October 8, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Hey Aaron,

    I’d have to say smack dab in the middle of the show for the following reasons.

    * Why not put it as an opener? Because an opener is meant to introduce the audience to what type of magic you will be performing. They don’t know your skill level or what you will do so they probably won’t be paying too much attention especially if they don’t suspect the trick started (Panic starts and ends quick) and they might miss out on the actual transpo. Plus, It’s easier to lead audience into Panic after you have done the a couple of effects and they know the cards are normal so they don’t suspect a gimmick.

    * I’m not to sure what the whole layout of your routine is but you could fit it after some simple transpos then prove you really can switch anything by doing Panic.

    * Why not put it as a closer? Because as you said the closer is meant to by your strongest piece of magic. Panic is a strong piece of magic but it does not really involve the audience, they are just watching. For a closer I personally always use an effect where the audience is really involved so they remember it better.

    Hope this helps a bit. Good Luck and tell us how it goes.


    Matt. G

  11. 11 Matthew October 9, 2007 at 4:41 am


    I would definitely not perform the effect as an opener, since you are left with 4 kings (or whatever cards) in your hands and this limits the effects that can be performed next. Also, as an opener, you would have just taken the deck out and introduced it. Making it vanish at this point seems a little illogical. Furthermore after Panic is performed, I feel taking the deck out of the pocket to carry on with something else is just silly.

    I would use it as a closer. In this position it is is perfect. Perform a signed card routine with 4 cards, end with panic using the signed cards instead of the kings. Deck disappears, the 4 signed cards are given out as souvenirs. Beautiful ending.

    I don’t know if this is possible since I don’t know the method, but to me this is the most logical application of the effect.

  12. 12 Kevin October 23, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Panic is the type of effect where I’d close a cool show with it using a foreshowed opening effect.

    An example of four kings sticking out of the upper breast pocket of your jacket… as you say something like: “Like the kings? I’ll tell you, a four of a kind really packs small but plays big at the poker table. It’s not like anyone ever asks, ‘What’s your kicker?’ Not once they’ve seen quads. But I’m just using these guys because they look good and hide the rest of a deck.” In that action you’ve taken (?) the four kings out of the pocket and fanned a whole deck from between nowhere…“Saves on custom charges, too.” (The latter foreshowing a ‘Foreign exchange routine…?!)

    A quick flashy opener that sets up awesome ‘Panic’ climax while additionally opens the act right for poker demos with magical twist and/or ‘Royal’ flushes climaxes…such as a possible end to panic as a royal flush…which now gets displayed in the performer pocket as he walks on out the door.

    The choice to end same (four kings) or differently (Royal flush) is very important to what the performer is trying to overall thematically achieve. Is the performer made to change as a result of the act or is the audience left to…?! Something Darwin Ortiz might have pointed out or suggested similarly to in ‘Strong Magic’.

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