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Tales of the Tables: Caught at a Strolling Gig Without Cards


I recently arrived at a strolling gig without my main close-up props. In fact, I didn’t even have a deck of cards. With a combination of a few secondary props that I still had with me, I was able to make it through the evening with good results. Here’s a rundown of the occurrence and some ways to deal with it.

No Cards
So how did I find myself at a paid gig without my main close-up props? The gig was on a Friday night and just two days before, I was hired for a gig where I did a stand-up magic show as well as some walk around. As a result, my main close-up props, the ones that make up 80% of what I usually perform in walk around, were in my stand-up kit.

On the Friday, I picked up my close-up kit and drove to the event. It wasn’t until I arrived at the gig that I discovered, to my chagrin, that all of my main props were still at home in my stand-up kit. And I didn’t even have a deck of cards or time to rush to a nearby store to purchase one. However, after quickly combing through the recesses of my close-up kit, I was able to scrounge a few props to try and make it through the evening.

So what did I find to work with? I had a finger ring and ribbon to perform a “ring on string” routine (mine is based on Dan Fleshman’s). There was a pair of dice to perform “Dr. Sach’s” and Bob Sheet’s "It's the Rules." There were props to perform “Chameleon Silks” (I perform a routine by Norm Barnhart - you can read about my experience with the routine here), and a chain to do the “Fast and Loose” con game (thanks Whit Haydn).

No Walmart
This was not a case of a scenario that I call the “Walmart run,” a situation that I have long thought about. This is the situation where I arrive at a walk around gig and discover that I have completely forgotten my close-up kit (yes, this has happened once, but fortunately, I was within ten minutes of my house and my wife was able to drive it to me).

With the “Walmart run” scenario, I have 20 minutes before my gig and no close-up kit or props. My only hope lies in a short buying spree at a Walmart or Target store to get or make some close-up props. I know exactly what I would purchase and perhaps this could be the basis for another story.

I’m pretty sure that a “Walmart run” will happen someday, but it hasn’t occurred yet. How can one possibly forget one’s props? When I’m running home from one gig and quickly changing clothes and running to another, believe me, it’s not hard.

The Strolling Set
So I walked into the gig and brought out my four effects. I have to admit that I was slightly uneasy because I wasn’t going in with my main, dependable material, but with effects, at least for me, that I feel don’t get the biggest reactions that I like to get from audiences (it’s why they remained in my close-up bag). I’m pleased to say that I got through the gig and received good reactions from spectators. In fact, after this experience, I’m surprised that I don’t perform these tricks more often.

Closing Thoughts
I’m pleased that I have always emphasized and studied sleight of hand and recommend that all who wish to perform magic do the same. Sleight of hand allows you to perform with minimal and even ungimmicked and normal props. And these props can be everyday items. Such skills allow you to perform with borrowed props or those that you have at hand. And with sleight-of-hand skill, you can allow props to be examined because the secret isn’t in the prop, they’re in your hands and presentation.

If I had had time for the theoretical “Walmart run,” three of the effects would have been within my grasp. To perform “ring on string,” all I need is a cheap steel (closed) finger ring and some ribbon or cord. Any large store will have a pair of dice in its “games” section. And while I’m not sure about the chain for “Fast and Loose,” I know that I can get it at any hardware store (it’s where I bought my chains and had them cut to my specifications).

The “Chameleon Silks,” of course, are another matter as they rely on a magic prop, and the silks may be hard to find at the drop of a hat. Of course, if I had made the “Walmart run,” I would have purchased a deck of cards that would have opened a world of effects, which would have included one of my main close-up routines. For now, the potential wonders that await at a Walmart or Target is probably worth another story.

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