Panic and Close-up: The Answer

I set out over a week ago to insert Panic into my Magic Castle close up show. I couldn’t do it – at least not just now.   I discovered pretty quickly something I should have already known: The problem isn’t as simple as choosing another trick before or after Panic that also uses four kings.

The overall aesthetic of my close-up show has grown organically, over five years and 200 performances. At this point my set works pretty well. Consequently, new tricks have a tough time getting into the line up.  It’s not enough to be a new, powerful trick. A new effect also has to make the show stronger.


Magic Castle Close-Up Gallery: October 8 – 14, 2007

My act is about interaction and improvisation. I have other considerations to be sure,  but without a healthy back and forth with my audience, the show ultimately fails.

This list below describes every effect in the set, and what purpose it serves in my overall game plan. As you read, think about where Panic fits in, either as an addition or a replacement. You may just discover that Panic can accomplish something in your show that you haven’t yet considered.

  • Chicago Surprise by Whit  Haydn – Roughly three effects in 4 minutes. Many performers working in the close-up room go through many more effects in the same period of time. For my show, Whit’s trick works perfectly. It serves to start a conversation with the audience and introduce magic into that conversation. In addition, Chicago Surprise builds to a miraculous conclusion.
  • Fisher’s Favorite Inversion/Revolution #9 from The Paper Engine – These effects  from my book are strikingly visual. They serve to please magicians and ‘magic savvy’ spectators. It’s the Magic Castle – a number of magicians come to see my show. It’s important to show them something that they, in particular, want to see. I put this material pretty early in the set – before I get to the stuff that upsets real people.
  • The Long Card – Classic or hackneyed, depending on your point of view. In this context, I use long card  to break the tension caused by the ‘breathtaking eye candy’ of the inversion effects. After watching quietly for a few moments, it’s time for the crowd to get back in the game. The trick also demonstrates, if only subconsciously, that I’m no purist. In this show there are no rules.
  • The Business Card Prophecy handling by Jim Patton – This version of  classic Bill Simon effect marks a transition in the show, from visual magic to conceptual magic. Many magicians, like my friend Nathan Kranzo, would argue that visual magic reigns supreme. I disagree. One need only witness Juan Tamariz, the finest card magician in the world, to know what I mean. Visual magic certainly has a place in my repertoire, but when I want to get inside a spectator’s mind, it often helps to skip the eyes completely and go directly for the  brain. That’s where the effect ultimately happens anyway. Why get fixated on appearances? 
  • The Hammer of Zeus (Christ Aces 2000) by Aaron Fisher (unpublished) – Don’t think of the Christ Aces – My version turns this classic on it’s ear. It’s conceptual, visual and involves directly three members of the audience. Not only does the trick work magically, it works theatrically. The pace of the effect builds to a crescendo and leaves an impressive picture both on the stage and in the mind. I can’t follow it – it’s the climax. The only thing I can do is take a nap, wait ten minutes and start over again.

Each and every effect here serves  the spine of my show. For that reason, it’s been more complex to add Panic to the mix then I originally expected.

Now it’s your turn. Consider my effects, what I’ve written about them  and how they all work together. After looking at these effects for a week, I think I know where to place Panic into this set. What do you think? Let me know. As always, I’ll read every comment you post.



4 Responses to “Panic and Close-up: The Answer”

  1. 1 HANKMILLIGAN October 20, 2007 at 2:18 am

    Aaron, I really appreciate your show order and reasons. I know what you mean about flow and interaction with the audience. Also about openers and closers and mysterious interludes. I noticed you have 5 tricks/routines. Ever since reading about show order in Roberto Giobbi’s CC Vol. 2, I’ve been using 5 solid tricks to a show too. Your comments about Juan Tamariz remind us about including some mindblowing effects in the late-middle too! I agree. Thanks for sharing.

    Hank Milligan, New Milford CT

  2. 2 Scott, New York October 23, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    As someone who saw your Magic Castle show (which was great — thanks again for the invite, it was a really fun evening), this question became a bit harder to answer. As an amateur, it’s clear why we want to perform a trick: we’ve learned it and want the quick fix pleasure of performing it. As a professional, you obviously have different considerations that you’ve already outlined. So, after seeing your show, I am left with a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. From seeing “Panic” before the show (and for those who haven’t seen it performed live and well, it looks way better than the Theory11 demo), it seems like the trick is intended to deliver a quick, almost disorienting surprise. And, as you say, your show is about interaction and improvisation. I was struck by how much you drew in and had a back-and-forth with the audience, and especially with the two people sitting up on stage with you – a particularly lively and funny couple on the night I saw. Almost everything you did felt intimate and engaged with the spectators. So, knocking them for a loop with a deck vanish – I’m not sure you need it. Like you said in an earlier post, you establish the reality of the deck and parts of your show, like the ending, for example, are predicated on that reality. I’m not sure how much “Panic” would add given all this.

    Thanks also for posting the set list. It was really helpful as I was trying to remember the different effects afterwards. For me, the killers were the “Favorite Inversion/Revolution #9” and the “Hammer of Zeus.” (I am embarrassed to say how badly both burned me. The setup for the final reveal of “Zeus” blew right past me, as did the key moves in the former.) But I was also perhaps most surprised at how well the “Business Card Prophecy” played. Honestly, when I saw you do that Prophecy move, I was a little like, “ho hum…” So, I wasn’t prepared for how strongly it would play to the two specs sitting up there with you, and that’s all a function of the presentation you gave it. For those of us who like to dabble in every new thing, seeing something so simple and classic play so big is a lesson.

  3. 3 Tim Sutton October 23, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Dear Aaron,

    I wanted to state my appreciation for all you’ve shared with the magic community. I first encountered you via the video taken at your International Magic Lecture, and was inspired by the thought and care you put into your magical creativity. Many thanks for your great generosity.

    I had one comment about your last post, which may come across as nit-picky (but I hope you’ll take it in the spirit it’s intended!) You used the phrase ‘builds to a crescendo’ – this is sadly impossible, as crescendo in itself means build, and indicates the passage of growth from one state to another. This is a thing we musicians always get our knickers in a twist about (Leonard Bernstein had a thing about it). Crescendo comes from ‘crescere’, meaning to grow, thus a crescent moon is one that’s just begun to grow from a new moon. However the word tends to get misused to mean climax, whereas in fact one more likely reaches a climax by way of a crescendo (but that’s another story).

    Keep up the wonderful work,

    yours with best wishes,

    Tim Sutton, London UK

  4. 4 aaronfishermagic October 23, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Hey Tim,


    …no offense taken!

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