“Keeping it Real”

juliesobanski2When I first started out in magic and escapes, I was a purist, meaning that I really DID get out of the restraints, no tricks involved. My straitjacket is real, not gimmicked. I felt like the audience could tell the difference. But over time, I’ve come to realize that, the audience’s perception of what is real sometimes differs from ours.

An audience thinks something doesn’t look real when it’s not ordinary-looking. The objects that you are escaping from have to look like normal things. But like everything, there are exceptions to the rule. Here are a couple of tips to keeping it real.

A straitjacket isn’t an ordinary thing that people are used to seeing, but the minute you ‘bedazzle it’ it becomes something that looks fake. Also a brand new straitjacket looks out of place. It shouldn’t look like you just bought it off the rack, so drag it in the dirt and give it that ‘lived in’ look to make it look real. Although your audience doesn’t know what it should look like, they are VERY SURE at what something shouldn’t look like.

Once I saw an escape artist perform a 100-foot rope escape with day glow pink rope. He was trying to play it serious, but the color of the rope made the whole escape look off. The audience didn’t care about the escape because the rope looked too suspicious. If it were ordinary rope, it would have changed the audience’s view of the effect. The same is said for chain. Don’t use the white or black plastic links like they do in parks. Get the real stuff. Audiences know the difference.

Handcuffs are a tricky subject, because there are so many different kinds and styles. A pair that is real and looks cool to us, may look fake to an audience because they are comparing what handcuffs look like from movies, TV shows and real life. The traditional police-style handcuff in their mind is real, where as something a bit more fancier like a hinged pair or something with locks and chain looks unfamiliar and therefore fake. There is enough wiggle room in the handcuff category to turn something that looks unusual into something that is real in your audience’s eyes.

If there are enough ordinary looking elements to an escape it is possible to convince your audience that this thing or device they are looking at is real. It’s really simple, all done by words. Explain to them what they are seeing but more important, why you are using it. By justifying the WHY, you can convince your audience to accept what they see, is real.

Take for instance the goofy looking Australian Bar handcuff. It’s a pipe with chain coming out of the ends and locks attached to the end of the chain. What the audience is seeing is all real, but outside “our community” it looks weird. So by explaining to the audience what this is, “…a long metal pipe (strike this against your hand to emphasize that it’s given them all the facts of what they see. Now convince them WHY you are using it) “…the twelve inches of pipe separate my hands…making it difficult to move.” Your ‘why’ doesn’t have to be that elaborate, but contain just enough information to make sense. Don’t over saturate, let your audience fill in the rest.

Remember, it’s not what you think looks cool–it’s what your audience thinks looks cool. They are the judge and jury. So do a good job of selling the ordinary and the audience will see the extraordinary.