Magic Tricks as puzzles
Spectators that see your magic tricks as a puzzle or challenge spend their time desperately trying to catch you out. They burn your every move with their eyes. They can't wait to be able to point a finger at you and shout 'Aha! I caught you!'
These are the spectators that are most likely to ask to check a magicians playing cards and demand that the magicians 'do that trick again'. Some enjoy the challenge, and some are driven crazy by it. It's people like this that most often comment that they don't like magic, when you first approach them. They can be worried that you will be making a fool of them, or that you will simply annoy them with a puzzle that they can't solve.
Magic tricks as stories.
Spectators that see your magic tricks as a performance can be the most fun audience for magicians. They look forward to being entertained, find magic a mystery and are most likely to have an emotional reaction to one of your magic tricks. If your magic is good, you can almost see them regressing back to being a kid again. They know that it's close-up theatre, but with each new magic trick you make them want to believe in the magic they see.
That's not to say that the spectators are easy to fool. They have the same sharp eyes that the 'puzzlers' have. The difference is that they are on the magicians side. Their job is to find you out and at the same time fail. The final monologue from the movie "The prestige" describes it exceptionally well:
"Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled."
Which type of spectator is better?
That really depends on the style of magic you present and your magicians performing persona. You may have a challenge or bunco booth, characterisation, and perform magic tricks that have a betting theme. You could perform magic with a 'catch me if you can' attitude. Maybe you perform like Slydini did, and tell your audience 'I'm a gonna fool yah!'.
Instead of pitting yourself against the spectators, the alternative is to weave magic stories, create an atmosphere of wonder and fantasy. Your goal would be to present magic that doesn't tease the audience into working out the method. They are entertained by the 'show' of the magic trick. A good movie causes the audience to suspend their disbelief. They stop judging the special effects and the sets, they are pulled into the 'effect' rather than the method'.
However you decide to present your magic tricks, bear in mind that you communicate how you expect your audience to react to your magic, through your presentation. If everyone seems to be reacting to your magic tricks as puzzles, chances are, you are doing something to signal to them, that is the correct behaviour. You may not be aware that you are doing it.
Notice how you feel most comfortable presenting your magic tricks. Being aware of the two approaches allows you to examine the patter you use, and the style of magic tricks you build into each working set or routine.
Puzzle magic tricks Vs. story magic?
Both approaches can be better or worse than the other. However, the most crucial factor is that you as the magician are aware of the distinction, and have consciously chosen which approach to take. A definite decision between the two will mean that your approach will be consistent across your whole act.
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