When Things Go Awry

What if something goes wrong?

You might as well forget the “what if”. Something will go wrong. I personally guarantee it. Regardless of how much you practice the mechanics, rehearse the presentation, follow the techniques of good showmanship, something will go wrong. Usually, the chances of you completing a performance of any length with everything going exactly as planned are pretty slim. Hopefully the mishap or surprise will be minor and of no consequence. However, there will come a time when you will have a problem that must be dealt with. How you deal with it will determine how it will effect you, the audience and your performance.

First of all, Don’t Panic. Magic is not brain surgery and chances are no lives will be lost. It’s rather doubtful that any lives will even be affected. If you handle it poorly, you may experience some embarrassment, but you’ll probably survive.

Obviously the best thing you can do is recognize potential problems before they occur and either eliminate them or find a way around them if they do occur.  Every routine in my act I have gone over thoroughly looking for potential problems or mishaps.  I have a list that I check, check and recheck prior to every performance. I want to be absolutely positively certain that every item I use in my act is exactly where it is supposed to be, set up and ready to go.

I use a locked bill tube in one routine. The key for the bill tube is in my pants  pocket. A spare key is in my roll-on, and another is on my key ring with my car keys.  I know that if I am in the middle of this routine and don’t have a key to unlock the bill tube, it would be a disaster. The only way that could happen, is for me to walk to the show, forget my roll-on, and my pants.

I do a ring routine that requires that I throw a ring into the air and catch it with the key ring. What if I miss and the ring falls to the floor? It really doesn’t matter because I have a line that fits perfectly into the routine and the audience will think that I missed it on purpose. Sometimes it pays to be paranoid.

It is not possible to foresee every scenario for problems. Eventually something will happen that you’re not prepared for and you don’t have an out. Many times you can cover it up. Remember, the audience doesn’t know what is supposed to happen. Therefore you may be able to change the routine to cover up the problem. The climax may be different, the effect may be weakened but still nobody will know you messed up accept you.

Although it should be a very rare occurrence, it is possible that a time may come when you completely blow an effect. Everybody in the audience knows you blew it, you know you blew it, and there is no way to cover it up. What can you do?

Again, remember this is not brain surgery, life goes on. Although you may be totally humiliated and you feel about 3 inches tall, you can’t let it show. Even though you wish  that you could crawl into your thumb tip and hide, laugh it off. Make a joke out of it. It’s not the end of the world. You can have the audience feeling sorry for you, laughing at you or laughing with you. I personally would prefer the latter.


By Ed Williams

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