Examining Props
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Examining Props Magic Article

While it is true that magicians possess excellent showmanship and are capable of handling any given situation arising during their performance, most of them find themselves on uncertain ground when the audience asks permission to examine their props.

In fact, this is one situation most magicians are afraid of – much of the uncertainty is attributed to the fear of the trick being discovered and its natural consequence on the importance of the magician.

Many renowned magicians who hail from different parts of the world unanimously concur on a single point; namely not permitting the spectators of examining props.

Some of them are so particular about this point that prior to making the commitment they usually clarify as to whether they would have to allow the spectators to examine their props and decline if the answer is in the affirmative.

Such a mentality can be explained in various ways but the most convincing explanation would be that magic is best enjoyed as an enigma and an illusion.

Hence any attempt to unravel how the magician managed the trick would be akin to bursting a bubble as it takes the fun away from the show. From the magician’s point of view, there is no dearth of reasons as to why a spectator should be prevented from examining the props, but the three main reasons are –

- Once permitted to be in close vicinity to the props, they tend to make a thorough job of touching everything including what they are not supposed to touch.   

- It is better for the magician if his audience is under the impression that they are not allowed to touch any of his paraphernalia as this way they will not make any such requests.

- A magic trick, after all is a just a trick and not a puzzle which should be unravelled. When people come to magic shows, their attitude should be to sit back, relax and enjoy rather than try to wonder how the trick was performed and to find the logic behind it. Hence they are not supposed to know the secret and must realize that this fact will not be held against them.

Another way of looking at this problem is from the spectator’s point of view and here it is simple to realize that the magician’s body language is the most effective tool to curb the curiosity of an inquisitive spectator. This is evident by observing the body language of some of the famous magicians like Houdini, Copperfield and David Blaine – facing spectators is an every day affair for them but then they conduct themselves in a manner that would dissuade any curious onlooker to ask for permission for examining props.

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In this regard, the very fact that your audience is questioning you or wishes to take a look at your props is indicative that perhaps as a magician your body language is not as assertive as it should be.

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This reasoning may particularly hold ground in case of amateur or under-confident magicians who are probably not as deft with their hands as is expected of them.

It is this evident lack of expertise which encourages the spectators to question the wisdom of the trick either because they could see through it or because they wish to prove that they are better at performing tricks than the magician in question.

Although there is no unanimity of opinion amongst magicians as regards the veracity of examining props as a rule magicians have been found to be against the idea.

Of course, there might be a few exceptions but most of the magicians stand against the idea.

However, this task is easier said than done and it takes years of training, practice and a streak of witticism to discourage the audience from touching things kept on the table for the sake of the performance.

Being cognizant of the normal human psychology of feeling tempted to touch things kept within reach, the magician can adopt the following methods to keep nosy spectators at bay –

- Talking incessantly is one of the best and time-tested ways of keeping the onlookers distracted and mesmerised by the conversation. In this way they will not be drawn towards the props in the least and be absorbed with the show. Thus the question of wanting to examine props does not arise at all.   

- Secondly it is imperative for a magician to learn the art of ‘people management’ which entails learning how to control the crowd rather than let the crowd control you. From the very first appearance, the magician must establish themselves as an authority who dictates the goings-on without exception. Once established, this authority must never be relinquished until the end of the show even if it seems arrogant at times.

- In spite of all the guards, if someone from the audience still comes up with the request of examining props then the reaction of the magician should be none other than utter surprise, as if it is a totally unexpected and out-of-this-world request.

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