My Load-out

Magicians like pockets almost as much as they like props to put into those pockets. Of course managing which pockets hold which cards, coins, ropes, markers, handkerchiefs, metal washers, lighters, balloons, and secret items is quite a task.

Here are my quick thoughts on pocket management for professional walk-around close-up performances.

I mentally have broken down all of my props into certain categories. The goal of pocket management is always to maximize the amount of material you can carry, while minimizing the number of props and bulges.

First things first, eliminate anything non magic related which isn’t essential to your work. Unless they play a vital role in your performance, your phone and wallet stay in your car, no exceptions. Unless you are using your keys in a trick (as I do) remove only your car key and place that into your least used pocket. Leave the rest of your keys in your car.

After that, you will be left with your:

These are the things which you absolutely cannot go to a gig without. Forgetting these at home would significantly impact your performance and professionalism. Mine are:

-A Deck of Playing Cards: In high school I could entertain for upwards of 45 minutes with nothing but a regular, shuffled deck of cards. I’m not saying that to brag, but more so to demonstrate the amazing versatility of this prop. I cannot imagine walking into a strolling performance without one (although I am working towards that goal).

-A Handkerchief: This is a great suggestion from Ken Weber’s book Maximum Entertainment. You are performing, you will get sweaty, and like it or not you are going to have to deal with that fact. The classiest solution is to pull out a quality handkerchief and briefly dab (not wipe) your brow.

-Business Cards: To leave these in the car or at home is a mistake. Think about the message you are sending when someone asks you for your card and you can only reply “Oh I forget them in the car” or “I don’t have any on me.” Showcase your preparedness and professionalism by having your business cards at the ready.

-Keys with Departure: I have to carry my keys on me anyway so I might as well utilize them in a trick. Departure is a great variation of Ring Flight which feels less gimmicky.

Notice that only one and a half of these are magic related. That’s because a deck of cards is the ONLY magic prop which I feel would significantly impact my ability to present the best show I can. And to be honest, I do not always bring/perform Departure. It’s the keys which are essential to me, not the trick.

These are the other props which you carry and make up the majority of your work. They are the commercial props, the pack-small-play-big wonders, the required tools, the workers we all understand as staples of modern close-up magic. But if you did happen to forgot one at home you could easily compensate with another effect and your performance wouldn’t suffer significantly. Mine are:

-Coins: Currently I carry 2-4 silver dollars. This allows me to perform single coin effects as well as coins across. However, I keep all of the coins in different pockets. I do this so I do not jingle when I walk or reach into my pockets; I feel that screams amateur.

-Sharpie Marker: Useful as a wand, to sign cards, and for Richard Sander’s routine Cramped.

-A Second Deck of Cards- I work with two regular packs of cards of the same color and brand. One is usually in a completely unprepared state, the other may have a set up or a single gimmick within it, but at any time during its use I am able to sacrifice the setup to retain an element of fairness. Having a backup pack is also useful if my main deck is somehow soiled or simply is depleted from giving away too many signed cards.

-Holy Moly: This is Jay Sankey’s tried and true classic. The reason it is a member of the Supporting Cast and not the Divas is because I can and have used the washer in single coin routines or even ring on string.

-Rubber Bands: Whatever you do, do not use the ordinary tan rubber bands. Use the new hipper blue or yellow or orange ones. They look cooler, add color, and feel more professional while still just being just rubber bands.

These are other props and tricks which serve one purpose but you use constantly. Their inclusion in your repertoire must be very well justified by instant or quick reset, consistent positive audience reactions, and the fact that you KNOW that you will be using it all night long. Again they are not necessary, and many of them rely upon the inclusion of Essential or Supporting Cast props. Some of mine are:

-Paperclipped: Another Jay Sankey effect which I used to close my ambitious card routine with.

-A Jumbo Coin: A one coin routine needs a finale and this is a great solution. It elevates a coin trick to something more professional.

-Kapps Wallet: I do NOT use this for it’s card to wallet talents. Instead I keep my business cards inside so that I can provide a magic “effect” for when I am asked for my card.

If you are playing along at home, you are probably noticing that- by magician standards -our pockets are pretty light. Carrying all of the above items will leave you with two or less items per pocket! Thats where these come in:

These are one (or limited) shot wonders which you bring to make a name. You reserve them for that special table or group which might include your client, the CEO, the birthday man/woman, someone who has expressed sincere interest in booking you, or just a group who’s company you really enjoyed. They are to get people talking and spread excitement through the event. While not essential tricks, I do feel that it is essential which you bring at least one with you to each and every performance. Some examples:

-Goldfish Production: Can’t get much more magical than creating life itself!

-Bottle Production: Great way to make an entrance and provide a gift to your host.

-Pressure: This cell phone in ballon effect by Daniel Garcia and Dan White is a great effect but doesn’t quite have the chops to make it as a showpiece. Save it for that really enthusiastic group and watch as the whole party soon is talking about how you put their phone into a ballon. Don’t be afraid if they ask to see it again, after all you only brought the one ballon, right?

Of course all of this material is complemented by a wealth of impromptu effects using borrowed or found objects. Why carry sponge balls when they have napkins there? Your spectators have pens, rings, coins, and paper money.

And to be honest, I try to perform material with these objects, as opposed to the props I brought from home. I would love to get to a point where I’m showing up to my strolling shows with nothing but my Essentials and maybe a Reputation Maker. How cool would that be?

Know somebody who needs to hear this? Please pass it along to them!

Have your own insights? Please comment below!

Did you really read this far down? Thank you so much, you are awesome!

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