New Victory Arts Break – Magic Week

Welcome to the fourth week of New Victory Arts Break! Guided by New Victory Teaching Artists, Arts Break is a curriculum designed for the millions of families stuck at home to incorporate the performing arts into their homeschool learning. Show or no show, our nonprofit is committed to bringing the performing arts to the widest possible audience, and inspiring you to make art, and make memories, together!

Last week was all about puppetry. This week we are focusing on magic. Take the Magician’s Oath, develop an entertaining persona and use everyday household items to amaze your family (and impress your friends over video chat). There’s a magician in all of us!

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Become a Magician

30 – 35 minutes, Ages 6 – 11

Magic is serious business! Not only must magicians perfect the presentation of their tricks through repeated practice; they also live by a code of honor. If you’re to become a respectable magician, you must first swear to protect the secrets of your tricks by reciting the Magician’s Oath:

I, (your name here), a magician, do officially, solemnly and with the utmost seriousness stand by the Magician’s Oath:

  1. I promise never to reveal the secret of any magic trick to a non-magician.
  2. I promise never to perform any magic trick for a non-magician without first practicing it until I can maintain the illusion of the trick.
  3. I promise never to ask a magician how their illusion was done, thus honoring the practice and tradition of the artform.

Have you sworn the Oath? It can be tempting to show off a trick before you’ve practiced it to perfection, but remember the Oath and keep your magical secrets (and your promises) sacred. Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Ben Johnson as he leads his assistant through the Oath and then teaches an amazing card trick!

Remember the Oath! Practice Ben’s trick by yourself before performing it for an audience, lest you reveal the secret.

Show Time!

As Ben explained, becoming a magician takes a lot of skill beyond the mechanics of the trick itself. The presentation of the trick requires showmanship! Let’s start by developing your magician persona.

Step One: Think about what kind of tricks you might like to perform and decide on some traits for your magician persona. Are you calm and mysterious? Showy and energetic? Check out this Playbuzz quiz for inspiration.

Step Two: Next you need a magician name! You can use your real name, a nickname or a new name altogether. Now add an impressive adjective, like “marvelous” or “tremendous”. Then just add a “the” somewhere, since you’re the only one: The Unbelievable Ben! Sonia the Sensational!

Step Three: Decide on a look. Do you have a cape? Do you sparkle? Or are you more of a casual, everyday-looking performer? Use this template to sketch a costume, or create your own illustration on a blank sheet of paper.

My Magic Persona Template

Here’s a drawing from second-year usher Veronica Perez of her magician persona, Finn the Magnificent, dressed like a true wizard. Named after Veronica’s new kitten who loves to jump, Finn the Magnificent is a prankster specializing in levitation and disappearing acts!

Veronica's Example—Finn the Magnificent
Finn the Magnificent

BONUS: Create a costume and dress up as your magician persona before performing!

Once you have a persona, it’s time to work on your “patter.” Patter is speech designed to amplify your persona, to prepare your audience for what they’re about to see, and to misdirect (or distract) them so they don’t carefully study your sly moves! Take a listen to the patter in the following trick from Jason Bishop, who performed on the New Victory stage in 2016 and 2017.

Think about how your magician persona would introduce a trick to an audience. Then fill in the blanks in this example introduction, or write your own.

Magician Patter Worksheet

Now put your persona and patter to use in a simple magic show! You can try practicing the trick that Ben demonstrated, or draw on hidden talents like in the video below, inspired by Cirque Mechanics’ 42 FT – A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels.

Modification for younger kids: Try out some of these magic tricks for little ones from What’s Up Moms!


Visual Illusions

30 – 40 minutes, Ages 5 – 12

Whoa, did you see that?! Today, we’re going to focus on visual illusions—making things move, transform and disappear before your very eyes. This first trick is inspired by Jason Bishop, who made a million dollars in cash disappear from a locked safe in Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic (New Victory 2017).

Most of us don’t have a million dollars lying around, but how about making a coin disappear? Take a look at the trick below, then follow the steps to learn how to perform it yourself.

Materials: A glass or clear plastic cup, two sheets of paper that are the same color, scissors, pencil, glue

A glass, two sheets of paper, a pencil, a pair of scissors, a glue stick and a coin

Step One: Trace an outline of the glass’s opening onto your paper.

Trace the opening of your glass.

Step Two: Using scissors, cut out the circle and erase any pencils lines that are left over.

Cut out your circle.

Step Three: Using your glue stick, trace the edge of the circle and attach it to the top of your glass. Make sure it is as seamless as possible. If there is paper hanging over, trim it with your scissors.

Glue the outside edge of your paper circle.

Attach the paper circle to the opening of your glass.

Step Four: Place the other sheet of paper on a flat surface. This paper should be the same color as the paper you glued to the glass. Place a coin and your glass upside-down on the piece of paper.

Prepare to practice your trick!

Step Five: Now it’s time to practice the trick!

  • Wrap your hand around the rim of the glass. Carefully lift the glass over the coin. Make sure you do not lift the glass too much because that might reveal the secret.

Carefully lift the glass.

  • Once the glass is fully covering the coin, remove your hands. The coin has completely disappeared!

Cover the coin.

Remove your hands and voila!

  • Finally, lightly lift the glass again and slide it back to the start. The coin has reappeared!

Step Six: After you’ve practiced the trick a few times and gotten the hang of it, perform it for your audience. How are misdirecting them? What sort of patter are you using?

Ready for another trick? This one is inspired by Jason Bishop’s adorable dog, Gizmo, who is famous for his own disappearing act.

Jason Bishop and his dog, Gizmo.

Rather than making a real dog disappear, we’re going to create the illusion that a drawing of a dog is being magically colored in!

Materials: Plain paper, scissors, clear tape, markers, clear page protector

Your materials

Step One: It’s time to draw Gizmo! Draw a simple picture of a dog on a white sheet of paper with colorful markers—the more colorful the better! Parents can also outline Gizmo in pencil for younger kids to color in. When drawing your dog, think:

  • How big is my dog? Is it a particular breed?
  • What color is its fur? Is it long-haired? Short-haired?
  • Is it smiling? Panting? Sleeping?

When you’re done coloring, outline the drawing in black marker.

Draw your dog.

Color the dog.

Outline the dog.

Step Two: Get ready to make magic! Slide the sheet of paper with your colorful dog on it into the sheet protector. Secure the back of it to the inside of the sheet protector with tape.

Insert your paper into a sheet protector.

Step Three: Trace the outline of Gizmo onto the sheet protector with a black marker.

Draw an outline on the sheet protector over your dog.

Step Four: Then slide another sheet of paper in between the colorful Gizmo and his outline. Fashion a small tab with a clear piece of tape at the top of the blank sheet so you have something to grab onto to make the magic seem effortless!

Slide another sheet inside.

Step Five: Slowly slide the blank sheet of paper out of the sheet protector to magically color in Gizmo!

Ta dah!

Another variety of visual illusions that you may be familiar with are optical illusions—tricks that our eyes play on us! We can make our own optical illusions using a technique called forced perspective. Here are a few examples:

Optical Illusion Examples

Notice how people and objects can appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than they actually are, just by changing the distance between them. Ready to try making your own?

Materials: Camera, optional props

Step One: Gather your family together to take some fun photos. Most forced perspective photos work best in a larger space so that you can play with depth and distance between subjects.

Step Two: Get inspired by the photos above. How many can you recreate? Can you:

  • Hold a family member in the palm of your hand?
  • Squeeze a family member’s cheeks between your fingers?
  • Make a large object look tiny?
  • Make a small object look huge?

Step Three: Share your illusion photos with us on Instagram by tagging @newvictorytheater! Here are two examples from first-year usher Farah Carson, taken at the Museum of Illusions in the West Village.

Images from The Museum of Illusions

Farah also got creative and used a mirror to create a levitation illusion!

Farah floats using a full length mirror

Craving more illusions? YouTuber Zach King is a master of short videos featuring camera tricks and optical illusions. Check out this video of three tricks that look like special effects but are totally doable with items you have at home.


Close-up Magic

25 – 30 minutes, Ages 5 – 12

Some of the most impressive magic tricks are the ones performed by hand and up close with small objects—close-up magic. Being close to the action gives the audience more opportunities to spot the mechanics of the trick, and when the trick is performed correctly they’re all the more astounded. Close-up magic uses sleight of hand—careful movements requiring dexterity and lots of practice. Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Liz Bolick to practice your sleight of hand skills and learn a few new tricks.

Using sleight of hand and other magical skills, the performers of GRUEJARM Production’s SNAP (New Victory 2019) created some unforgettable illusions.

Add more tricks to your repertoire by following along with these SNAP-inspired hand tricks. Make use of the skills you learned earlier this week—persona, patter and careful practice—to perform these tricks like a pro. But remember the Oath! Try practicing in front of a mirror before you perform for an audience.

There’s one last trick to learn today. Yesterday, we made a coin disappear and reappear. Today, we’re going to use sleight of hand to multiply one coin into two, then three coins! Take a look.

Materials: Tape, paper, scissors, two plates, three identical coins

Your materials

Step One: To set up the trick, cut out two paper squares approximately 1½ inches on each side.

Step Two: Place the two paper squares on the back of each plate and tape down three of the four sides. You are making a tiny pocket.

Tape the squares on the plate.

Step Three: Take one coin and slide it into the pocket of one plate. Take another coin and slide it into the pocket of the other plate.

Slide a coin into each pocket.

Step Four: Flip your plates over. Make sure that the two openings in the pockets you created are facing each other. Place your third coin onto one of the plates.

Place your third coin on one of the plates.

Step Five: Now you are ready to perform your trick! Make sure you keep your audience at a distance to avoid revealing how the illusion is done.

  • Show your audience the plate with the coin. Keep a steady hand, remembering that two coins in tiny pockets are under the two plates.
  • Tip the plate onto the other plate so that the coin on top transfers to the other plate. The coin in the pocket will slip out too, magically turning your coin count to two.
  • Repeat the action to the other plate. Ta-dah! Three coins. Magic!


Note: We purposely made the magic pocket visible in our photos to help you learn the trick. If you find that your pockets are also showing through, drawing a fun design on your plates can help distract from the pockets.


Card Tricks

20 – 25 minutes, Ages 6 – 12

What’s a magician without a few card tricks up their sleeve? Before we dive into learning some new card tricks, it’s a good idea to practice shuffling and handling cards. Here’s first-year usher Christopher Lucik making the simple act of fanning out a deck of cards look magically effortless.

Fanning a deck of cards

The surprise and delight of a good trick can lift your spirits in even the toughest of times. Inspired by a true story, Cahoots NI’s Nivelli’s War (New Victory 2017) follows Ernst, a young evacuee from Frankfurt at the end of WWII traveling with the mysterious Mr. H, a magician. On the road, Mr. H’s sleight of hand gets them out of a few scrapes, and Ernst is inspired to become a magician himself.

Prior to seeing Nivelli’s War, audiences were invited to learn two cards tricks at home from New Victory Teaching Artist Steve Cuiffo—the Teleporting Card Trick and Pick a Card, Any Card. As you follow along below, watch for two important skills used in many card tricks: prearrangement and key cards.

Here are three more card tricks, performed by Johnny and his assistant, Eva, both big fans of New Victory (and parents of Education Programs Associate Mia Sommese!). Using what you’ve learned about sleight of hand, patter, misdirection, prearrangement and key cards, see if you can work out the secrets of Johnny’s tricks.

Do you think you’ve got Johnny figured out? Watch the video again, practice in front of a mirror until you think you’ve got a trick mastered, and then perform for a friend or family member. You could even try performing over video chat!

Modification for younger kids: Here’s a card trick from storyteller Mary J. Lockwood that’s a bit simpler to pick up—just two cuts of the deck. Mary has a few other magic trick videos on her channel, too, that are perfect for the younger set. Just look for the red curtain backdrop.


Ridiculous Magic

20 – 25 minutes, Ages 5 – 12

They say you have to know the rules before you can break them. You’ve learned a lot of skills this week, and hopefully, through practice you’ve begun to feel comfortable performing various types of magic for an audience. Now it’s time to break the rules, get silly and have some fun.

Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Sarah Petersiel as she combines magic with clowning into a performance style she calls “ridiculous magic.”

Use this template to brainstorm and plan out your ridiculous magic show. It includes instructions for a show poster, too, so you can advertise your ridiculousness and drum up excitement for your show.

Magic Show Template

Even though these tricks are ridiculous, practicing your comedic timing is still very important! Practice each trick several times, finding moments to add in a super-serious face or extra showy gesture. We recommend performing in front of a mirror so you can get an idea of what you’ll look like to your audience. If you mess up, that’s okay! Just try again.

When you’re ready, gather your audience and get ready to put on a show. You’ve spent all week wowing them. Now it’s the final countdown—time to make ’em laugh!

We hope you enjoyed this fourth week of New Victory Arts Break. Check out past Arts Breaks here, and keep coming back for more arts-based fun in the weeks ahead.

You are a part of the New Victory community. We want to see you, and hear from you! Show us how you’re using NNew Victory Arts Break at home and share your creative work with us! Tag us on Instagram @newvictorytheater.

Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks so much for these wonderful lessons! I’m a school librarian and have shared them with our students…makes everyone smile and learn new skills at the same time.