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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

Encore by John Graham

I am not a fan of multiple selection routines. The lack of organization and potential chaos makes them unappealing to me. Additionally, the routine has a tendency to drag on and on. Some very successful performers have built their careers on multiple selection routines, but I just don't enjoy them. In fact, I rarely perform routines that involve selecting more than one card. In my opinion, once you've found one card, the trick is essentially over. The audience knows you'll find the others. Seeing multiple one-card productions can also dilute the magic, leaving the audience with a vague idea of what happened instead of a clear memory of a single moment of magic. 

So when I saw John Graham was releasing a multiple selection routine, at first, I thought, “Do we really need someone else to explain the 100 ways they find a selected card for a multiple selection routine?” But because it was John Graham, writer of Stage by Stage, I decided to at least try to learn more about it. That’s when I saw these impressive quotes:

“John has created the first major leap forward in the multiple selection routine in decades. Far and away the best multiple selection routine I've ever seen.”

– Asi Wind

"John Graham has come up with a very original and commercial approach to the multiple-card location plot. It’s well worth any card magician’s study."

– Darwin Ortiz

“John has invented an entirely new structure for my favorite effect. I love it!”

– Andi Gladwin

“I have performed a multiple selection routine for years and have read pretty much everything on the subject. This approach by John is amazing, entertaining, and most of all unique and surprising. It’s really an act, not just a trick or even a routine. It’s all high impact with nothing wasted or extra, except maybe for that 'H' in his first name.”

– Jon Armstrong

“This booklet, not even 40 pages long, is the best value I’ve seen in a book in a very long time. No word or space wasted, just all in strong card magic that builds into an amazing act. You don’t want to miss this gem from one of my favorite magic authors.“

– Caroline Ravn

Hmmm, these are some pretty big names to be raving about a multiple selection routine. And with the consistent comment of originality, I knew I wanted to take a look to see if this could sway me.

At just 35 pages, this brief little book gives insight into a deleted chapter of John Graham’s book Stage by Stage, which you can read a full review of here. This routine didn’t really fit in the format of Stage by Stage, so it got cut. Some of John’s peers convinced him that this multiple selection routine warranted its own release. Encore is written, illustrated, and printed in the same style as Stage by Stage, so if you’ve read that, you’ll know the quality to expect. The book is US Trade size (6” x 9”) which is a proportion I really enjoy for this thickness.

So what is the darn thing? Encore is an entire close-up card act. John says it lasts about 18 minutes when he performs it at a moderate pace. It is completely modular, meaning you can stop at any point, but if you perform it in its entirety, it contains sixteen climaxes.

What makes this act different from most multiple-selection routines is that the selections are made as the act progresses instead of all at the beginning. Even though there are sixteen climaxes, only six selections are used, and they are all signed for quick and easy identification.

The way the act is structured is that with every new phase, you find the newly selected card, and as a kicker, the previously selected cards turn up again. Ultimately, all six cards are lost and found in a more traditional multiple-selection style. And then there’s one final unexpected kicker.

The effects John uses in his act are classics that are all very easy to do with no knuckle-busting sleights. Being proficient with cards is enough for most of the moves. Each effect in the act is very snappy and different from one another, which makes them all work nicely together. Essentially, you are getting a completely curated act. It should be noted (and John makes this clear) that once you understand the structure, you can completely change the effects you use to fit your style or skill level. John provides a full act, but more than that, he provides a structure you can use to string together many of your favorite card routines. 

The other great thing about the act is that it is *essentially* completely impromptu. If you have a deck of cards and something to sign the cards with, you can do this act. I say “essentially” because John does use a breather crimp in the act. He says it isn’t necessary, and you can do it all by holding breaks; however, as it’s written, there is one phase that requires you to find a certain card quickly, and having it as the breather helps greatly with that. In a pinch, you could probably use a corner crimp or something similar to help you locate it quickly, but the whole act really is much cleaner with the breather, and let’s be real, when do we ever borrow a deck of cards in real life? (Especially if the routine involves signing 6 of them.)

This act reminds me of the old giraffe in the refrigerator joke. If you’ve never heard it, think about these questions before reading the answers:

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door.

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant, and close the door.

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference; all the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?

Correct Answer: The Elephant. The Elephant is in the refrigerator.

4. There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?

Correct Answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting!

In the same way this joke builds on the previous questions and takes you by surprise, this act builds on the previous effect and takes your audience by surprise with the shocking revelation that the previous cards always “just happen” to be there too. It works as a throughline and a sort of punchline to each revelation.

Overall, I really enjoy this take on a multiple selection routine. And genuinely, I can see myself using it. The ability to swap effects in and out of it relatively easily is especially nice because it allows you to tweak it to fit your own performing style or environment perfectly. Most laymen would dread sitting through a 10-20 minute card act, but this one is very entertaining, and the surprises will keep them hooked. It’s about the best structure for a card set that I’ve ever seen; it’s definitely the best structure I’ve seen marketed commercially. 

I’m not here to sway you, but I will say, Encores swayed my opinion on the multiple selection routine. 

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