I would like to share with you a few things you might not know about one of my favorite illusionists, Andrew Mayne. Mayne is the creator of such memorable body-deformation effects as Chest Burster, Painful Dislocation, and — as made famous by The Amazing Johnathan — Jump Rope with Your Own Intestines.
Mayne has been performing personal transformations for as long as anyone can remember. One of his first effects involved doubling his own height over the course of only a few years, much to the delight of his parents.
He began performing publicly for large audiences as a teenager, and soon learned that he could perform more frequently — and cut down on his medical expenses — if he found ways of creating the illusion that he was (for example) smashing his own skull with a sledgehammer, rather than performing in a more direct manner. This is what led him to create Skullcrusher, the only published effect in which a magician destroys and restores a spectator’s signed, borrowed head.
Which reminds me, Mayne recently released an effect called Tear Down. At first, I was quite curious to learn what it was all about, in that I assumed (as you likely did) that the effect’s name was a reference to Ronald Regan’s famous suggestion that Gorbachev tear down the Berlin wall.
Well, it turns out that the effect has little to do with walls, politics, or the former Soviet Union. Instead, it is a torn-and-restored newspaper effect that can be performed with a borrowed, signed newspaper, regardless of what language it’s written in or how much more it focuses on Britney Spears than world hunger.
This is quite an evolutionary effect. I am in a position to know, in that I used to perform a similar bit of prestidigitation back in the day. I’d borrow a sheet of newspaper from a member of the audience (they were always reading the newspaper during my act), have another member of the audience sign their name in big letters across it, and then proceed to carefully, openly, and visibly tear it into tiny pieces before their very eyes.
Mayne’s effect takes this a step further by actually restoring the newspaper after all that tearing is done, and I have to admit that it is a big improvement over my old method. It makes me wonder if a restoration phase might have improved other segments of my act, such as when I would borrow a spectator’s watch and smash it with a hammer.
I’ll have to give that a try.