The Vanishing Candle
The following routine is taken from BIG LAUGHS FOR LITTLE PEOPLE by Samuel Patrick Smith.
The Vanishing Candle
A candle, wrapped in a scarf and held by a volunteer, mysteriously disappears.
(1) Fantasio Vanishing Candle.
(2) Silk scarf (about 20 or 24 inches diagonally).
(3) Candle holder (available from gift shops and other stores).
Extend the Vanishing Candle to its full height, and place it into the candle holder. It should fit snugly enough not to collapse at an inopportune time! Have the candle in its stand (on your table) in full view.
I use this effect to follow the Invisible Flying Silk Scarf routine, also from Big Laughs for Little People.
Before the show, find out if there is a birthday girl in the audience. There often will be—especially if you’re doing a girl’s birthday party show! But even if you’re working a preschool or elementary school, check with the director or teachers to find out who is having a birthday.
“Now that we can see this scarf again, I need to find a young lady to hold it for me, and to help me here on stage for a few minutes. Of course, I need someone who is sitting quietly. How about the girl in the pink sweater. Let’s give her a hand as she comes to the stage.
“Hi, there. What’s your name? Laurel? You mean . . . you’re Laurel? The Laurel? The famous Laurel, who is having a birthday today?
Wow! It’s nice to meet you!
“When I got here today, Miss Toni told me it was your birthday. If I had only known you were having a birthday today, I could have brought you a cake. I’m sorry to say, I didn’t bring one. But I did bring along a candle. Would you take care of this scarf for me, until I get back, please.” Drape the scarf over the girl's head and turn to the table. Take the candle out of the stand, gripping it from the bottom with enough pressure to prevent it from vanishing too soon. Hold it between your thumb and first two fingers.
Turn back to the girl, but pretend that you don't see her. Since she is beneath the scarf, you really won’t be able to see much of her! Look puzzled. “Laurel? Laurel? Where are you?” The children will find this very funny. Then realize that she is under the scarf. Whisk it off of her, exclaiming, “There you are! Trying to hide!
“Well, take a look at this candle. I think it would be big enough for a giant birthday cake, don't you? But since I forgot the cake, let’s do a little magic with this candle, in honor of Laurel’s birthday.” Pick up the scarf and hold one corner in your left hand and the other corner of that side in your right hand. Since you’re still holding the candle, you can grip the silk between the ring finger and middle finger of your right hand. You will be able to pivot the candle behind the scarf or swing it back up into view.
Ask your helper, “Laurel, would you name a color for me—any color at all—and we’ll try to change this red candle to match whatever color you say. Name any color at all.”
Sometimes, in confusion, the girl will name the color of the candle. In that case, you can get a good laugh from the adults in the audience, by saying quickly, “Red? Fine! We’ll change this into a red candle. Wrap it up in the scarf. Pause a moment. Snap your fingers, then upwrap the candle and proclaim, “Red! We’ve changed this into a red candle!” Someone is sure to point out that it was already red.
“Oh, well, then, please name another color, Laurel.” Let’s say that she selects blue.
“Blue it is! Let’s wrap this candle in the scarf, like this.” Swing the candle down behind the scarf, near the top edge [Figure 16]. Wrap the scarf around the candle about six times, or until the candle is completely covered. Wrap it as tightly as you can and still leave room for the candle to collapse.
When the candle is wrapped up, hold the top with your left hand, and keep your grip on the bottom of the candle with your right hand [Figure 17]. You can now begin letting the candle slowly collapse into your right hand, as you proceed with the routine. If you keep the scarf pulled tightly enough, it won’t lose its shape, since you have wrapped it around the candle a number of times. Only you should know that the candle is making its exit!
As the candle is secretly collapsing, kneel down beside the girl. The candle should now be in the bottom of the silk in your right hand. You are still holding the top of the silk with your left hand, as though the candle were wrapped inside.
Say to the audience, “Everyone, help me, please. Reach into the air, get a handful of woofle dust [Figure 18], and throw it toward the candle. Now, reach into your pockets and get some woofle dust. Throw it toward the candle!” Saying this, reach into your inside coat pocket to get some “woofle dust.” As you do, take along the now collapsed candle. Continue holding the silk from the top with your left hand—it will keep its shape for that brief moment if you have wrapped it around the candle enough times.
Deposit the candle into your pocket, and quickly bring your hand out again, pretending to hold “woofle dust.” Sprinkle it over the silk, as the children throw their magic dust and make a whooshing noise. (Involving the entire audience in this physical action distracts them sufficiently to practically guarantee they won’t catch you ditching the candle. I’ve performed this 600 or 700 times, and I don’t recall having been caught once—I don’t believe the teachers have caught this either.)
As soon as you have sprinkled your imaginary magic dust, take hold of the bottom of the silk scarf again with your right hand. The few seconds you have released your hold may have allowed it to unwind slightly, but not enough to matter.
Say to the girl, “Laurel, I’d like you to hold on to this for me. Reach up with your right hand and hold on to the top of the candle. Now hold on tight to the bottom of the candle, but—please—don’t break it.” You can guide her hands to take hold of the right places on the scarf—the very top and the very bottom. Make sure she is stretching the scarf tightly between her hands.
She usually will not know that the candle isn’t in the scarf. Or, at least, she won’t say anything about it. (I try to get a very young volunteer!) If she does start to say something about the candle being gone, just plow on through the routine, talking right over whatever objection she may be trying to make. (But this rarely happens.)
Stand up from your kneeling position, leaving the girl holding the candle (apparently). Say, “When I snap my fingers, the candle will change from red to blue, just as Laurel requested. At least, we hope it will change! Ready? [Snap your fingers near the scarf.] “And, yes, it’s true! The candle has changed from red to blue! Incredible. Now, to your further amazement, I will change it back into a red candle.” Pretend that you are about to snap your fingers again, pausing long enough before actually snapping them so that the children have a chance to object. They will want to see the candle blue before you change it back to red. Or, the older kids will know that the candle never changed colors at all.
Say, defensively, “You don’t believe me? Well, then, Laurel, you show them. Unwrap that candle so everyone can see that it has changed from a red candle to a blue candle. It’s really an amazing . . .” Continue chattering like this, without looking directly at the girl unwrapping the scarf. The girl and the spectators will scream when they find out the candle is missing.
Continue talking about the candle changing color even after the girl has the scarf open and is shaking it out. When you finally notice that the candle is gone, do a double-take and stop your sentence in mid-stream. “It’s really an amazing . . . uh . . . hey! . . . what happened? [Whisk the silk away from her, turning it back and front, looking for the candle.] I thought you had .
Babble like this for a few seconds before asking, “Laurel, what did you do with the candle? Did you eat it? No? She made it disappear! That’s amazing!” If she denies responsibility (“I didn’t make it disappear!”), add, “She’s amazing and modest, too! Let’s give our birthday girl a big round of applause!”