Prop Management

by Kevin Gallagher

I perform a number of different types of magic. I most prefer situations where I am allowed ample set-up time before delivering a straight through performance but more commonly, I perform in a stroll around situation where my role is to mingle among the guests, usually at corporate hospitality events, performing what might be termed impromptu magic. Being comfortable in this situation is a lot about prop management. Over the years, a way of working this type of event has evolved and I would like to share here some of the methods that now serve me well.


To start with, I use playing cards. I am a great follower of card magic have a very large repertoire. Playing cards are very useful because there are countless things that you can do with them, unlike most magic props which are often only good for a specific short routine. In my experience, the only people who have adverse feelings about card magic are magicians that can't do them so don't worry, if you are at all competent, people generally love to see fast moving visual card magic where cards vanish, appear, transpose, jump to the trouser pocket and Kapps wallet and so forth and generally enjoy the experience of 'taking a card'.


I carry two decks, one red backed, one blue backed. In my case, one deck goes into my left inside jacket pocket together with two marker pens. The pens are a reminder that this deck may be defaced, when one pen runs out, I throw it away and use the other, replacing the spent one for the next show. I use this deck to perform linking cards, card warp, signed card revelations, anything where cards are written on, folded or destroyed. The inside right jacket pocket has the other coloured deck which is in perfect working condition. No-one is allowed to shuffle or otherwise manhandle this deck and it is used to perform skilful, elegant magic. At the end of the night, what remains of the defaced deck is thrown in the bin, the good deck becomes the rough deck for the next show and a new deck of the opposite colour is opened and worked for a short while until it is perfect for use as the new 'good' deck. This means that each time I perform, I consume one deck which works well for me. I generally use Waddington cards because people will recognise and relate to them. Few people have seen Poker sized cards let alone Bicycle cards and so they appear immediately hooky. The problem with Waddington cards is that they have a very short usable life and often, they are effectively one-way as far as moves like backspread and Ascanio go because of inaccurate cut corners but this set-up alleviates any problems.


I like thread magic though it requires some management and care. For this, I use an Invisible Thread Reel. The end of the thread is tied to a fake wedding ring which sits in its own ticket pocket, in my case in a specially positioned purpose fitted pocked. To perform with thread, I simply slip the ring on and I am ready to perform. At the end of the routine, I quietly slip it of and put it back into the pocket. This is a very simple but highly practical solution.


I have many excellent pieces of magic but, no matter how good, if it does not reset with only a little work into the pocket from whence it came, I would never use it in a stroll-around situation. In each pocket, I have a hard item and a soft item. By way of example, in my right trouser pocket I have an I'll start again paddle and two brightly coloured headbands for Mike Ammar's Linking Headbands. In my left hand trouser pocket, I have unequal ropes and a small purse with three crowns inside, together with one loose coin which would be taken out at the same time but never seen since this is the Coin ahead for a number of routines including Coins through Silk and Coins Across. At absolutely any time, anyone can slap me on the back and say "Come on then mister Magician, show us a trick". With confidence, I can dip into any pocket, bring out one of two items, perform the routine and put it away allowing it to be re-used immediately any number of times.


Occasionally for this type of booking, costume is requested. Last Halloween for example, I was employed as a Wizard at an Alarms exhibition. The costume had no pockets of its own but had two slits allowing access to the trouser pocket. I have performed in a pocketless Jester's blouse with no jacket being allowed. Bookers often have no regard for the practicalities of supplied costumes but using good prop management, I can comfortably work for several continuous hours if required.


Kevin Gallagher July 2000