“Bert Allerton’s Rules for the Close-Up Magician. “ Part Six

Please note that each element of “Bert Allerton’s Rules for the Close-Up Magician“ has been reprinted with the express written consent of Magic Inc. (no part may be re-printed in other media without consent of Magic Inc.)

To get a copy of, “Bert Allerton: The Close-Up Magician. “ Visit: http://www.magicinc.net/closeupmagician.aspx

We continue with our next point in the series…
“To be a really successful close-up magician you must:”

6. Be a student of psychology, for there are many startling and unexplainable effects that can be performed as a result of knowing what people will do under a given set of circumstances.

In the last post I talked about, “a 90 minute conversation between workers discussing the timing of a move or the effect that changing the rhythm of a storyline might have. “ That’s the kind of thought that the real workers invest – it’s the kind of thing that elevates magic from a craft to an art.

It’s been said that within the context of the performance a magician knows more about psychology than any professor. Without tipping any secrets I can tell you that careers have been made and legends set on the foundations of knowing what people will do under a given set of circumstances.

In fact knowing how people perceive events, interpret language, and even how they remember things opens an entire world of possibilities. One might even disbelieve the idea that some effects are designed so that the amazement is the result of mis-remembering a series of events rather than fooling someone outright…but I can tell you – it’s true!

I grew up in somewhat isolated conditions and as a result I’ve always been a bit of an observer. Additionally my major in college was behavioral science; my area of concentration was learning theory. I have a great interest in people in general and it’s served me well. Fortunately I almost always use my powers for good….



My favorite demonstration of this point was one of the performers in Cirque de Soleil’s show, “Nouvelle Expérience.” He was a silent clown who began by walking through the crowd. Sometimes sitting with them or pretending to talk to them, leading people all over the place before finally giving up and handing them back their tickets…in general he seemed to be playing with them.

But his play had another purpose – later he would need to pick four people out of the crowd for his act and it was critical that he pick people who would have a natural sense of playfulness and composure…his time playing with the audience was a super quick study of potential volunteers.

The entire act was a reenactment of a movie scene being shot. It was done in pantomime with him playing the part of the cameraman. One volunteer played the part of the director, another was the ‘good guy’ there was a damsel in distress and the ‘bad guy.’

Keep in mind that the whole thing is being done with people who are making everything up off the cuff – and one extremely talented “puppet master” who is creating openings that he knows his imaginative and playful volunteers will take advantage of to produce hilarious results. And so they did! It was masterful and brilliant!

I remember seeing this kind of thing in other performances as well; something would happen and a spectator would act in an unexpected way that forced the performer to improvise with funny or amazing results…and it seemed to happen more or less the same way every show!!! At first it seemed like a bit of a letdown – like it was contrived.

Later I realized the amount of work that went into creating those moments was incredible and could only be honed through repeated performance. I began to understand the level of complexity masked by simple events that seemed to be happening organically, and how carefully they had actually been constructed.

I use this literally in every performance I give. I use it to test the volunteers I will select during the show and in a variety of other ways that I am disinclined to share – after all the illusion is paramount for your enjoyment and so it is my priority 🙂

P.S. If you’d like to check out the Cirque’ performance I spoke of you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IcnZE3rjoY (at least until it disappears!)