Six Impossible Things Program
By Joshua Jay - Sunday, February 14, 2021
Everyone who came to my Off-Broadway show, Six Impossible Things, received a small, hardback program book. In the book were six short writing pieces that, I hoped, would enhance the pieces they saw in the show. I didn’t want the pieces to simply recount what happened, but just show a part of my process.
What follows is one of those pieces. In the show I give everyone a fork, and then immerse the entire audience in complete darkness. In the dark, without the benefit of sight, we all cause our forks to bend impossibly. This is the piece that accompanies that trick:
The interplay between magician and audience isn’t only the most important part of a magic show; it’s what makes magic unique in the performing arts. Juliet always dies by her own hand. Sherlock Holmes always catches the culprit. But the way a good magic show unfolds depends on the audience. What if you had chosen a different card? What if you had thought of something else? We know it’s theater, but it feels real.
“Both the viewer and the view are part of the same field,” writes Robert Hughes in The Spectacle of Skill, “Reality, in short, is interaction.” This is true of art. It is especially true of magic. If a song is played in an empty room, is it still music? You could argue that both ways. But with magic there is no debate. It isn’t a magic effect unless someone is there to experience it. If you’re doing magic alone, you’re just practicing.
I imagined Six Impossible Things to be entirely interactive. The equation for a magic show is nearly always the same: there is the magician onstage, a participant next to him, and an audience observing. The question I asked is, What happens when you remove the audience? The only elements left are the magician, and you.
Uri Geller is a strange man. For a brief moment in the 1970s, he had convinced most of the public—and even scientists at Stanford University Laboratories—that he had genuine psychic abilities. He invented the notion of bending spoons, and demonstrated this ability all over the world.
What fascinates me about Geller is that he has framed himself not as a theatrical magician, but as real miracle man. And despite a vast army of skeptics who have thoroughly and convincingly debunked Geller and his spoons, he maintains that what he is doing is genuine.
Uri Geller called me one day, out of the blue, and introduced himself. He was calling from Israel, he told me, and he had just purchased my book, MAGIC, and was flattered that I had featured him in the historical section. “Next time I see you,” he said, “I will bend a fork for you.”
“Thanks,” I said.
Four years later, it happened that we were booked for the same event in Italy, and we were sharing the same stage. I reminded him about his generous offer. What happened next I’ll never forget.
“You’re right! Come with me!” he shouted. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of my backstage chair, frantically escorting me to the refreshment table. He snatched a fork from the table and then, before my eyes, it bent.
I know for a fact that what he did wasn’t real, but in that moment, in that place, it felt real. But the only reason it felt real to me was because I was able to suspend my hardened, jaded disbelief for a fleeting moment. I wanted to give you that same experience in this segment, but as an added challenge, I wanted the spoon to bend in your hand. But only for those who would admit to me, and the group, that they would be open to believing something impossible.
Do you remember what you said to me in that moment?
There’s a little more to my story with Uri. Right after the fork bent, he signed the back of it and gave it to me. I treasured that fork, and it held a place of honor on my bookshelf (in the paranormal section, obviously). “Legitimate,” autographed, Uri Geller bent forks go for big money on eBay, but I loved mine because of the rare moment it represented: a moment where I, the magician, was the participant, experiencing real magic. So it sat on my bookshelf as a conversation piece, until January of last year.
I came home to find my cleaning lady, just recently hired, dusting the shelf at the spot once occupied by Uri’s bent, signed fork. “Janina,” I said, “where did the fork go?”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “It was all bent up and had black smudges on it. So I straightened it out and wiped off the dirt. It’s in your drawer now, with the other forks.”
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