Here’s something I’m very much looking forward to testing in kids shows once 2019 hits. You take a blank piece of paper that’s bill-sized. You get the kid to write “Magic” on it — ideally, you want it nice and big. You then do a bunch of weird stuff with it.

Originally, I didn’t really have all that much in mind. Mostly, it was going to be a bunch of TT-related items. You roll up the bill, you pour salt into it, and when you unroll the bill, the salt is gone, examinably. You roll it back up, and you can pour the salt out. This is a classic effect usually done with a bill. This is a classic effect, but essentially, anything that fits within a TT would be fair game — matches, coins, silks, etc.

That’s basically where I got stuck. Not only did I not have much to cancel methods with (outside of maybe Paul Harris’s approach with the sugar packet), but I didn’t really have that much effect variance, either. With a bill you’ve got a bit more leeway with what you can do. It’s waterproof, so you can do a bill to lemon without having the contents smear. It’s a recognizable image, so a mismade bill makes sense. You can get away with switches using the conceit of the serial number as the eventual verifier, but that kind of thing doesn’t work as easily here. You can get better proofs on a torn-and-restored bill as well. A transposition I suppose could work, but it’d require some real contrast. Maybe if the kid wrote “Magic” on the paper, and it was put into an envelope, and then I take a $10 bill, and change it into their “Magic” paper, and then have the $10 jump into their envelope… It seems a bit weird. A better idea would be to just have them draw a pretend $10 bill and then, after some magishing, turn it into a real one.

“Star Warp” (the bill version of Card Warp) might also work. I’ve never been a huge fan of the effect — it’s always felt like a topological curiosity more than real magic — but I think that’s largely due to having learned it before I saw it performed a bunch for regular people. It also feels a bit small, and kids shows need something bigger.

Jay Sankey had a neat trick on Revolutionary Coin Magic where you ball up a bill, throw it at a quarter, and the quarter ends up inside. Pen or pencil through bill might also work — I really like the idea of the paper being totally examinable for this particular approach, though, and combining that issue with the fact that it’s not a bill (meaning, you lose out on some good gimmicks) makes this approach seem problematic.

An effect that got posted on reddit recently seemed very interesting, and it definitely fits the spirit of what I’m trying to go with here…

What a great idea. I really needed to read those books more closely when I had access to them. It was this specific video that made me want to explore the idea again.

Jay Sankey had yet another effect called Fan Mail, which is (in my opinion) one of his more inspired ideas. Sankey gets some flack in the community for recycling his ideas too much, but this particular effect is very charming and a real worker.

Tangentially, there was something else I messed around with in my kindergarten shows. As a setup to the Magic Colouring Books, I’d pull out a piece of paper that was a black and white clipart drawing of a rainbow, and after the magic gesture, the paper is unfolded to show that there’s now colour. Originally it was meant to use the $100 Bill Switch method, but I’ve never really been able to do it very well, so I just substituted a shuttle pass and had the kid do the magic and unfold the thing themselves. I wouldn’t do it outside of kindergarten shows, but that’s fine, because it was always meant to be a lead-in to the colouring books, which I’d never do outside of kindergarten shows anyway. Now, I liked this, but I wonder how it fits into something like this, where the emphasis is on pieces of paper that the kids write on. Perhaps it’s one of those things where the memories of the various events would bleed into each other anyway, so it’s no big deal to use them all together.

On additional big problem that I had with this was the lack of potential for variance in theatrical dynamics. The magic here is ultimately pretty straight-forward, some paper is doctored, magic happens, and the effect is shown. There’s not necessarily wrong with that happening in an individual effect, but in kids shows, too much of this means missing out on some great ideas, such as what you can get from magician-in-trouble or other applications of David Kaye’s “Look Don’t See” idea. Maybe those dynamics can be saved for other effects.

Of course, with that problem also comes some opportunity, namely in the sense of substituting the magic wand for writing utensils. This is something that I’d wanted to do for a long time. I loved the idea of being able to take make orange spongeballs jump around by erasing them and drawing them. The wand in this case would be an orange erasable one, although that’s not an easy prop to find, mind you. It’s always a good idea to buy multiple items whenever you find something like this in a thrift store or whatever. I was very close to trying to just take a regular pencil and painting it whatever colours I needed.

I’d also toyed around with the idea of having the magic evolve around “rune words”. It may open up some more ideas for effects, although as a theme it would almost certainly be better for older audiences.

Anyhow, that’s all I’ve got for the time being. If things come to mind I’ll update this post.