[It is the policy of Inside Magic to offer its readers new and different views on the art of magic — even if they are offered by those who have no reputation for honesty or integrity. Today’s submission is an essay on a new and different approach to magic for kids. Inside Magic does not approve of Tony Spain’s thoughts or approach to kids’ magic. In fact, we find them horrible.]
It is a given – and so I’ll write it at the beginning and get it over with – that people are reluctant to accept the new and cling so tightly to the old. The old is comfortable, fits well with their beliefs (in part because the beliefs have been formed by the comfortable fit with the old pattern) and to leave the comfortable is to risk the unknown.
I think it was John Wilkes Booth that yelled Sic Semper Tyranus as he hit the stage floor after assassinating President Lincoln. His words are reportedly from some foreign language, maybe Latin – even though people didn’t speak Latin then – and some scholars have translated them to mean, “So Always Goes (or With) Tyrants.”
Phillipe Anjou, the cartoonist and creative mind behind the 1870’s most famous one frame comic, “Li’l Trachea: The Funny Passage Way,” reworked the assassin’s declaration with humor.
The cartoon showed Li’l Trachea jumping from the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theater with a pistol in his ligaments and the ever-present hand-rolled cigarette balancing ever so gently on the top of his tube like head. Li’l Trachea shouts “Let’s Try Something Different!”
Li’l Trachea’s little friend, Liver Boy is about to jump from the box as well and it looks like he will land right on the proud little trachea. Li’l Trachea wants to try something different but only we, the audience, can anticipate the fun that will follow shortly.
I traveled down that side road of cartoon history, to make a point. Even within 10 years of the death of a great public leader, the method of his assassination is lampooned as trite.
So what does this have to do with my innovation in Kid’s Magic?
Only this: I believe I have hit upon a formula that works and works independent of the traditional trappings we associate with the Kid Show or Kid Magic. I believe it takes a certain kind of personality to perform this method but then again, so does any kid magic. You have to feel comfortable with the children and make them feel that you are safe and you are there to entertain them for exactly 55 minutes pursuant to your written agreement with their mother, father or legal custodian.
Rather than go into the nuts and bolts right now, I thought I would relate to you my experience this weekend as I tried out my new, novel, approach to Kid’s Magic.
At the age of seven, psychologists tell us, children become aware of mortality generally and their own mortality specifically. Perhaps a relative has passed away or maybe a family pet or close friend. Regardless of the trigger, the age of seven, is the time to understand that few will make it out of this life alive.
Most Kid Shows ignore this ground-shaking revelation and allow the Birthday Boy or Girl to reflect silently that their birthday also means they are moving irreversibly along the river of life towards their final day.
The kids are terrified but they cannot verbalize their fear. By pretending all is sugar and donuts, the entertainer is really just reinforcing their fear. Every breath used to inflate a balloon is one less breath available to the child. Blowing out the candles on their cake provides only a harsh reminder that, as Buddha said, they too will vanish from life like the flame from the candle — even a birthday candle.
I say, don’t fight these fears. Exploit them. Use them to make this the best birthday ever.
That’s where I came up with my concept for Kiddy Séance. I will get to the marketing opportunities in a second, but imagine this scene.
You: Kids, how many of you believe in ghosts?
Kids: (Wild yelps of approval and raised hands)
You: Who is your favorite ghost?
Kids: Casper the Friend Ghost!!
You: Did you ever think that Casper used to be just like you? He was a little boy who died.
You: We don’t know how he died. Maybe he was hit by a car while riding his bike; got kidnapped; caught on fire while he was sleeping; or had bad thoughts that caused his heart to burst.
At this point, I know I have something. The kids are quiet. They are listening. Some are crying. I turned down the houselights and invite the kids to sit in a circle around an Ouija Board. Some were scared and I told them that unless they were in the circle, their soul could be snatched when Casper comes back. This was all ad lib by me — you can have fun with this.
The rest of the presentation was simply a spiritualism act but brought down to the kids’ level. We spelled out Casper’s messages to the boys and girls: “Help Me!” and “Avoid Candy and Pop!”
The Candy and Pop message hit one little girl a little too close to home. It turns out her father divorced her mom and married a dental hygienist ironically named “Candy.” But for the most part, it worked well.
We had a bell ring when anyone was thinking a bad thought. I even released some really foul odors to give them a smell of the “sulfur of Hell.” I covered the sound of my release of the odors with the ringing of the bell.
It was great fun and at the end I reminded the kids that they needed to keep open the channel to the other world. That is so much better than allowing their doubt and fear to fester like a wound. To keep it open, they needed to have me entertain at their parties to regularly communicate with Casper.
What did the parents think? This was the first party I have done where the parents got into the act as much as the kids. They were just as silent. Like their children, they were staring, wide-eyed and taking it all in.
If you are interested in the act or would like to develop your own, contact me and I’ll direct you to the resources (all made by and sold by me) you need to have a successful act they’ll remember and talk about (probably with court appointed counselors) for years.
The magic of the mind is the magic of the heart.