I did a show at a camp for disadvantaged kids in August. Actually Joshua Jay and I took the train upstate together. Josh did a show for the older kids and I did a show for the younger kids.
These were very “tough” kids. Not tough, as in “tough room,” difficult to perform for. They were tough as in very “street.” Trust me when I tell you they have had particularly difficult lives. And they carry a tough exterior as a defense mechanism to survive their daily lives.
One of the tricks I did in the show was my original trick, Magic Party Picture. This is an 8 1/2” x 11” sized trick using the Out To Lunch principle. The magician displays a picture of a room with a table. On the table is a birthday cake. Using a crayon the child writes his name on the cake. The paper is then handed to the child who places it face down against his chest. After the magic words are spoken the picture is revealed to be all colored in. There is a wonderful moment in this routine where I ask the child to look at the colored-in picture first, before showing it to the audience. The audience sees his reaction, then he turns it around to show them the face of the picture.
I explained the routine to be able to tell you this story. I asked for a volunteer to help with this trick. A nine-year old boy raised his hand. I chose him. Despite having raised his hand to be in the show, he walked up to the stage very slowly, with great swagger. Like it meant nothing to him. When he arrived where I was standing, he looked around at my table, his back to the audience, like he wasn’t really interested to be there. It was so odd that I commented on it. “You don’t have to help me with this trick if you don’t want to.” He told me he would stay.
I continued with the routine. He wrote his name on the cake. He drew nine candles on the cake, and I handed him the paper to hide from the audience. We said the magic words and I asked him to look at the paper. Now, up to this point he is just appeasing me. Following my instructions, expressionless, with no idea where this is going.
He looks at the paper, sees that it is all colored in, and yells out a loud, “Whoa!” With genuine glee he experienced a powerful magical moment. And at this moment all his bravado was gone. He was a regular nine-year old kid who witnessed real magic. He turned the paper around to show the audience who also reacted strongly.
He had a wide grin on his face, and his eyes lit up! He looked back at the paper to see if the colors were still there. Did that really happen? The audience was electric and gave him a big round of applause.
After the show all the councelors were talking to me about this boy. They told me three amazing facts. First, it is very typical for the kids to want to help, but then, in front of the others, to make it seem like they are too cool for it. That is the way they carry themselves. Second, this particular boy was having a very hard time at camp. In fact he was almost sent home that very morning. Third, his participation in the show and his reaction to the trick were nothing short of astounding to the councelors.
And why am I telling you this story? Because while we all run around doing shows, staying busy, running our businesses, I think we sometimes forget the real joy that our art can bring to a child. Here I had a kid who was a real behavior problem. And I totally blind sided him with a trick in my show. Magic that happened in his hands, that he absolutely did not see coming. As a magician, you never know when a truly magical moment will happen to YOU. We do our shows. We do our best. And we entertain our audiences. But sometimes, a truly magical moment will occur and remind us that we really can do magic.