Thus ending the first week in August means that I, Smallini, have just returned from my annual week’s vacation in the gorgeous Acadia region of Maine. My family and I once again stayed at the wonderful AMC Echo Lake Camp, where we swam, canoed, hiked and ate good food while enjoying the company of other interesting and delightful families.
At the end of the week there is always a camp talent/variety show, and I was once again persuaded to perform a little magic among the singing and ukulele playing. This year I decided to just bring a deck of cards and perform Cards Across. As I have stated before in this Diary, I am usually averse to card tricks (last year I performed rope-through-body), but before I left for camp I saw a magician perform a version of Cards Across on the new season of Penn & Teller’s Fool Us TV show, and I was reminded of how powerful and entertaining that trick can be.
I was also reminded of the time I saw David Blaine perform a great impromptu version of Cards Across at the New York Public Library. He was lecturing as part of a new series there, and he was about halfway through, when two protesters stood up and started chanting about saving the books (The library was currently in the process of some sort of controversial program to digitize their books). It became clearly apparent that these two protesters were for real and that they were not going to stop. Blaine handled it like a pro, inviting the protesters on stage for Cards Across. They seemed flummoxed by the turn of events, expecting rather to be thrown out. But Blaine calmly and respectfully performed the trick (despite some of their snarky comments), and received big applause before asking them to stay for the rest of the talk (he would speak to them about the books issue afterwards). Blaine did a wonderful job of diffusing a tense and awkward situation while entertaining a large room of people with an unplanned card trick. It was the only time I saw Cards Across performed live.
Before I left for Echo Lake, I began researching some of the methods and performances of Cards Across. There were several routines I saw by respected professional magicians that just seemed too complicated for the audience to follow. It’s tempting for a magician to add something, and then another thing, before the routine becomes over-packed, so to speak, so I made sure to perform the trick as simply and efficiently as possible.
Before an audience of about one-hundred people, I chose the two tallest adults in the room as my assistants. I made a joke about if people in the back could see them (yes, it got laughs), but my real reason for choosing them was that I believed I would receive more ‘cover’ when one of them walked in front of me to hand some cards to the other one. Such was the extent of my unsureness of my card palming abilities that at the moment when I was to execute a crucial move, I thought the misdirection provided by a tall person crossing in front of me would help. Of course, it doesn't matter at all who the spectator is, how tall, or how wide for that matter, as long as you perform the move casually and correctly,
I also had another spectator choose a card from the rest of the pack to indicate how many cards would pass from one person to the other. I used the always reliable cross-cut force to produce a two of hearts. The cross-cut force also allows you to recap what has happened so far in the trick (one person counts ten cards, then hides them. Then the other person does the same). By the time the spectator looks at their forced card and shows it to the audience, no one recalls anyone walking across the stage to hand the cards to the other person.They just remember the two of them counting their cards into my hand, then hiding them on their person. The ending of Cards Across is a great crowd-pleaser as the audience and two standing spectators slowly realize what has happened.
Cards Across is just a phenomenal trick. Two spectators have magic happen in their hands; there is great opportunity for humorous byplay as they count the cards and then hide them on their person. The staging and timing is good for a large audience, and the magic is clever enough so that upon reflection it is difficult to suss out the method.
Interestingly, more than one person came up to me afterwards asking me not about how the cards transferred from one person to the other, but about how I knew how many cards (two) would travel after they were already counted. It was the cross-cut force that really sealed it for them!
A few days later I was unexpectedly called upon to perform a trick at a small gathering (my mother-in-law's 80th birthday), so I chose to do Cards Across and it killed again. No wonder this trick has survived the test of time, with so many legendary magicians performing it. A simple concept, yet so strong when performed.