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Topic: My Cups and Balls Performance
Message: Posted by: Habbrock (Nov 11, 2013 04:07AM)
Here is my performance for a local magic competition (took 3rd) and it is currently in the "Known World's Got Talent" competition. I would appreciate any feedback. I know several things I could have done better but I am always looking for more feedback. I certainly wouldn't mind a vote for this current competition but mostly I want to improve my performance for the future. Thank you in advance.

-Jason Porter (AKA Aslak the Awful)
Message: Posted by: Pizpor (Nov 12, 2013 04:00AM)
Looked great to me. That was an interesting retention vanish you're using. I don't think I've seen that before.
Sounds like you've got ideas for things to tweak (we are always our own best critics.)
Good luck in the competition.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Nov 15, 2013 05:28PM)

First, I like your routine. As a cups and balls routine, it is a nice length, it has some humor, you execute it cleanly. The false transfer you use is sort of an odd way to display a ball, but it really seems to work for you, so I don’t think you need to change it. And the final loads were done well. Overall, a very nice routine.

But, here are three suggestions for making it fit your purposes a bit better.

First, as nice as the routine is, it does not communicate that it is a *medieval* cups and balls routine. You could dress that up without changing a single move by using more “forsooth” speech in your patter. I know that this has sort of faded away from the SCA as a whole, but for a performer it is okay to use thee, thou, and other little words that cue people into the thought that they are watching a medieval conjuror.

Second, it does not communicate your name to the audience. In order to be remembered from a 3 minute performance, you want the whole audience to remember your name above all else. It is the difference between them saying later “and there was a magician who did a great trick with cups and balls” versus saying “and this magician named Aslak did a great trick with cups and balls.” If they remember your name and associate it with cups and balls, any other performer who tries to do this trick for an audience that has seen you will hear “oh, I love that trick! Aslak does that trick.” Use your name in the performance if you can. Alternatively, a sign on the front of your table with your name would help people remember you. Do what is comfortable to you, but those are just a couple of ideas.

Third, your garb. I don’t mean to be nit-picky, but you seem to be dressed as generic SCA. My personal contention is that any performer who wants to be remembered should be distinctive in his appearance, not generic. I would say a performer has to dress above his audience, but for SCA purposes, I’d say a performer has to stand out from his audience. For a peasant, he could wear patched motley. For a noble, wear a really flamboyant hat or something. My wife watched your video and her comment was “he should really have a hood with dagged edges and a liripipe.” It would sure make your look more individual and medieval. Parti-color or angel-wing sleeves or something like that would be simple enough but make you really stand out.

As general advice, watch as many of Master Payne’s videos as you can. Don’t copy his style, as I think you are developing your own and that’s better than copying. Instead, observe how his clothing is something that can only be associated with him. That goofy hat and tabard are only going to be him. Also, his forsooth speech and odd accent tell the audience that he is a medieval magician. Finally, at the end of a rope routine you know his name. At the end of his cups and balls routine, you know his name. At the end of his egg bag routine, well you get the idea. He says it often enough to make sure we all remember who we watched.

I hope this has been useful! Again, good routine, my only suggestions are to customize it for your audience.

Message: Posted by: Ekuth (Dec 6, 2013 06:20AM)
I have to second what Mr. Woolery advised on all counts... I will, however, throw in a few of my own thoughts.


The false transfer. Interesting! I cannot say I've seen it done in that way before. Ballsy (pun intended). You do make it work, and while the hand positioning is odd, I *DO* like that you are using your palm as a 'stage' to display/highlight the ball for your specs.
You also do it very cleanly, which is the important thing.


Woolery is correct. For the audience, your routine is not... medieval. While it is well done, it could definitely benefit from better/more period 'window dressing'. Use wooden cups instead of brass. Use monkey fists instead of the standard balls. Following on this, your patter would also benefit from 'speaking forsoothly'. Alas, he is correct, the proper parlace hath fallen by the wayside o'er the passage of years since our Society's origins. Pretend you are performing for their Majesties at High Court and address the audience as such. Apply this line of thought to your script and adjust it accordingly.

As an ancillary part of this, I move to...


Pacing. As one performer watching another, I could tell you were nervous and as a result, your pacing and connection with the audience suffered. Nerves are terrible foes, alas... but this could be easily remedied by doing something that is likely going to draw me fire from the C/B community at large:


Allow me to expound: As nerves hit, adrenaline begins to flow, increasing our reaction times and consequently; our speech and movements.
Because the C/B is *so* complex as it is, this only compounds the problem and we have a tendency to 'push through' the difficult sleights/parts of the routine.

There is another reason that this is important, which brings me full circle back to point Two...

Changing the pacing and slowing down your routine would allow you to do two important things:

1. Project an aura of mystery! (Watch anything that Eugene Burger performs; he creates a mood of mystery and wonder simply by the cadence of his voice, which is low, calm... mysterious and slightly mischievous.)

You are a Magician! A Worker of Wonders! Consorter with Unseen and Possibly Dark Forces for which you have bartered your immortal soul for Unholy Powers!


"I would like to show you the oldest magical trick in the world and it involves..."


(Enter stage, bow low and hold it for 2 beats longer than you normally would, then raise your head slowly... and gather their gazes as you speak in a low tone)

"Your Majesties. Your Excellencies. Lords and Ladies all... I, Aslak the Awful, bring to you now from the ancient sands of Aegypt, a miracle~ a wonder obtained by great hardship and peril unto my body- unto my mind- and indeed... to mine very soul! But be warned! For those who gaze upon the secrets of old can oft awaken that which is best left sleeping... wilst thou brave the danger with me?"

Learn and use the power of pausing and silence.

Caveat: Only use this approach if it suits your persona as a magi... If you are more of a Comedia D'Arte, go full tilt on the comedic aspect and ignore virtually everything I said above, except for the following...

2. Connect with your audience.

Pause. Smile. Gather their eyes to you. You are performing for ROYALTY! For their MAJESTIES!
Make EVERY person feel that you are performing just for them. Gravitas! or Pathos, as noted above...

Fourth, and last:

Again, Woolery has nailed it on the head. Garb and name recognition. Stand out. No, you don't have to go full on Royal Laurel Nazi Approved (tm) Elizabethan, but DO dress yourself up, and yes: GET YOUR NAME OUT/IN THERE. Insert it in your patter. Put it on a sign. Use it as a magic word... ALWAYS open and close with your name.

Overall, bravo! You have a good, clean routine with some unique twists and more importantly, you're not just content to rest on your Laurels, but to improve. (I'd advise resting on a Pelican instead, they're generally more padded and less inclined to bite... inside SCA joke, for those not in the Society).

Above all, pursue your OWN course, your OWN style and to what feels right to YOU.

Good Fortune be with you this Even, m'lord.

~Lord Christopher D'Bovey, Kingdom of Atenveldt, Barony of Twin Moons
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 6, 2013 06:30PM)
Ekuth, thank you! A couple of your tips are going to be added to my own approach to cups and balls in the SCA.

How amusing that your characterization of Pelicans seems to be accurate everywhere! I live in the frozen armpit of the SCA, so always assume certain things are different elsewhere. Well, some things are. I hope. At least it is warmer elsewhere.

And I didn't even think of Eugene Burger, but he is a perfect example of the power of slowing down.

It was when I decided to start doing magic in the SCA that I upgraded my garb to stand out as more flamboyant than anyone else's, so that one really sort of stood out to me. I spent a long time waffling about time period, but decided upon one time because of the pockets. That's all. Pockets. If it had been earlier, I would have done parti-color (and at my size, that's a lot of color!) and a hood. I also found that the first time I showed up dressed fancier than everyone else, I was really self-conscious. It takes a certain amount of gutsiness to make yourself stand out so visibly. But when performing time comes, it is well worth it.

If Habbrock is reading this, please realize that there's no insult attached to any of this. Your cups and balls routine is better polished than mine. I'm still working on the things I suggested to you, which is why they stood out to me. I honestly look forward to seeing a lot more from you and if I ever figure out this YouTube thing, I hope to one day start posting some of my own efforts for criticism.

Message: Posted by: Habbrock (Dec 7, 2013 09:18PM)
Thanks for the input guys! I think my biggest mistake was taking on too much. We only had 8 minutes during this competition and I decided to do 2 tricks instead of focusing on doing 1 really well. This cost me my connection with the audience and I was going WAY too fast. I definitely agree I need to speak more forsoothly. I did a bit at the beginning of the act but by this time I lost it. I am saving all this advice and will be looking it over each time I work on my show...you guys gave me freaking GOLD.
-Jason Porter
aka Aslak the Awful
Message: Posted by: Ekuth (Dec 8, 2013 08:58AM)
Anytime, m'lord... anytime.

Just passing on what was passed on to me; paying it back/forward as it were. And, finding magi who are familiar with the SCA's particular culture... probably not too many... or more than we think.

Myself, I'm getting a crash course in Renaissance Faire vs SCA... oy! What have I gotten myself into?


A patron filled environment where I can busk to my heart's content and angle for a stage show next year is what...

*rubs hands while chuckling maniacally*
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 9, 2013 12:23AM)

Out of curiosity, what was the other trick you did?

FWIW, I have no idea whether there was a time keeper who would have cut you off at the 8 minute mark, but my experience with the state fair talent show (my kids competing, me being the roadie) was that if folks don't go egregiously over time they are allowed to finish their act, provided it is actually entertaining. The judges in that were all professional entertainers, so they understand that sometimes you need 6 minutes, not the 5 you are officially allowed. They judged based on the merits of the performance, not the time it took. The winner did a 2 minute act. And he earned his win. If the setup for your competition is similar, don't stress too much about the time.

Funny how a group started by a bunch of hippies who wanted to reject modern societal restrictions has gotten so hung up on doing things by the rules the way the SCA has. That's the major reason I suspect the time keeper really would have cut you off at 8:01 even if you were not done. But maybe I am judging based on my local group, rather than reflecting the reality of yours.

Bravo to you for just getting up and doing it, though!

Message: Posted by: Habbrock (Dec 10, 2013 12:32AM)
The other trick was 6 card repeat. This video was from the 3rd Annual Cache Valley Magic Competition run by Richard Hatch. We had a hard 8 minute cut off and a disqualification if we kept going after that so time was a huge issue. I decided to go with my medieval act because it stood apart from the rest. I was one of the few not wearing black-on-black. The SCA competitions I have won are much more forgiving on the time. Usually they ask for a 5 minute performance and I go 10 (as do a bunch of us) and no one bats an eye because we keep it fun. There have been a few times where they really only wanted 5 minutes and I just did cups and balls but usually not during a competition.
-Jason Porter
Message: Posted by: medievalmagician (May 7, 2016 05:18AM)
I've been wanting to start doing magic at SCA events. I'm glad to see it is being done and the cups and balls is definitely a routine I'd be looking at doing or possibly a chop cup routine. Thanks for sharing.
Message: Posted by: malaki (Aug 24, 2018 09:22PM)
That's funny, Habbrock....
I didn't think stop watches were period....

I find it amusing that Patrick's ideal time period was based upon the development of pockets. I have brought at least five other magicians into the SCA and as soon as they saw that pockets were not period, they were gone!
My cutoff date for a persona was the development of cards (I don't do card tricks), and when/where tights were no longer worn (knobby knees). Thus my trip to China, which also gave me my wizard's robe!
Message: Posted by: Habbrock (Nov 24, 2018 02:04AM)
Sorry, haven't been on the Café for a while. All you need is a Gibeciere and who cares about pockets?

It's interesting to see this performance compared to the one I just did as a final performance as Bard of Artemesia. https://www.facebook.com/Habbrock/videos/10156890430782174/
Message: Posted by: malaki (Nov 26, 2018 01:47PM)
"All you need is a Gibeciere and who cares about pockets?"
My sentiments, exactly! Unfortunately, not everyone is up to such a challenge. I have used a Gibeciere before, but it does not fit my garb/persona. Body loads and draw string bags have been my approach to solving the issue.

Nicely performed, m'lord! I would have liked to have seen your performance as the Bard of Artemesia.
Message: Posted by: D. Yoder (Nov 28, 2018 05:34PM)
I enjoyed the performance by the Bard!
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Nov 29, 2018 01:32AM)
In Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion, there is a pattern for venetian breeches with pockets. Late 16th century, so certainly period. Just in the better dressed part of the SCA period...

And yes, there are plenty of other options. A ring purse would have been my option for earlier. I just like them better than the big budget in front (I prefer to use the English word because it is snootier than the French gibiciere and means the same thing!) In fact, Hocus Pocus Jr. even mentions opening the codpiece for the concealment of the balls. Not quite the route I want to go, however! No time for SCA anymore, but I'm glad to see that at least one person is working to keep magic alive in that group.

I do like how the newer video embraces the concept of slowing down. By doing it pantomime to music, Habbrock avoids issues of script and creates a wonderfully pleasant atmosphere with this routine.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 3, 2018 08:18PM)

It's great to see you back!

Loved the new routine (or is just better?), and sorry you live so far away (not as bad as Patrick, though!)

I have one suggestion--remake the video with better light and a closer camera. That will allow you to show your greatness even better!

Congratulations on being bard of Artemesia. That is a major honor and great accomplishment.

Message: Posted by: Habbrock (Dec 9, 2018 04:15PM)
Rerecording it is a good idea, I didn't realize there were cameras rolling when I performed otherwise I would have recommended a better spot to record from.

I usually don't use a full Gibeciere other than when I am doing cups and balls or one of my extended color changing ball routines. A simple pouch is typically enough, somewhere to stash props between performances. My table also has a servante but I am still not as comfortable with that as I am with my Gibeciere.

I'm now working on my next Bard of Artemesia competition routine as it was strongly suggested by his Highness that I compete again (no idea what I'm going to do).
Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 10, 2018 06:27PM)
Aslak wrote: "I'm now working on my next Bard of Artemesia competition routine as it was strongly suggested by his Highness that I compete again (no idea what I'm going to do."

May I suggest something from Discoverie/Hocus Pocus? Although I subscribe to Master Payne's Fun over Strict Authenticity when it comes to performance, for a contest (especially at the kingdom level), authenticity will win ALOT of extra points. As you are already the "cup and balls" guy, I would suggest you stay away from anything with balls and show that you are much more than the C&B guy.

There are so many tricks from these period sources that are extremely familiar to modern audiences, and I think familiarity combined with authenticity we be a great combination for winning. For instance, one trick that usually gets missed because it is in a different location from Scot's long dissertation on magic tricks is this is where a person looks at the card which is then burned, and then the magician finds the card in someone's pocket.
Text: "As for example, he will shew you a card, or anie other like thing: and will saie further unto you; Behold and see what a marke it hath, and then burneth it; and nevertheless fetcheth another life card so maked out of some bodies pocket, or out of some corner where he himselfe before had placed it" (Chapter XIII, p. 174; The Discoverie of Witchcraft is a Dover Publications, 1972).

Some other good ones are cut and restore rope, pulling ribbons from ones mouth, and burned and restored thread. (All of these are great TT tricks; of course there is much debate over whether TT's are period, but I for one believe that the modus operandi is almost certainly of ancient origin).

Another good one which would baffle everybody is the beads on a string.

You might consider a medley of tricks than one particular one.

As I said, authenticity is important. But as for the actual modus operandi, there is a lot of leeway. As for TTs, one argument against their authenticity is that these works never mention them. However, I would point out that wands are never mentioned either, but almost all period illustrations show magicians using wands.

Hope this helps,

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 10, 2018 06:29PM)
Oh yeah,

There is also the coin disappearing from the handkerchief trick. That is a very simple, familiar, and authentic feat!

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 11, 2018 01:59AM)
Card in POCKET? Wow! I missed that in DoW, myself! Thanks!

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 11, 2018 07:37PM)
You're welcome. In a couple of my previous posts I had listed a few tricks or effects that were not in the main section of DOW.

There are so many tricks in DOW and HPJ that are either still performed today or close variations are that it does not take a lot of work to adapt them for modern audiences.

For instance, this morning I was looking at the Dover Secrets of Alkazar book (Allan Kronzek) when I read about a trick that I had previously skipped called the Stamp Collector. Basically, the trick consists of a blank scrapbook and a glass full of stamps. You dump the stamps into a cone of paper, they disappear and mysteriously reappear in the scrapbook. As I was reading, it came to me that the modus operandi used was exactly what is used in the DOW/HPJ picture book trick (a book contains blank pages, then it contains drawings with changing colors). The DOW/HPJ account is pretty hard to decipher, but with this little Dover book it all becomes crystal clear! (By the way, this is a trick I had really wanted to perform but was not quite sure how to do.)

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 12, 2018 03:13AM)
With the general claim that pockets are not period, it is especially fun to see a 16th century trick that demonstrates the ubiquity of pockets at the time.

Plus it just looks like a fun trick. Sometimes the simplest tricks are the best. I wonder how hard it would be to put together a period-appropriate force deck...

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 12, 2018 07:59PM)
The coloring book trick is alive and well.

I just found it at Midwest Magic under the title "Coloring Book--Three Way," for $12.95.

Yep, the old is new again.
Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 12, 2018 08:08PM)
As for pockets, I think we should differentiate with regards to function.

Yes, the pocket as we know it is later period--15th century? It originated as a way to conveniently locate purses (pouch if you prefer).

However, there is the magician's functional aspect to consider. It does not have the same function as that used by the population at large--it is an apparatus designed to conceal things. So no, it would not be what we commonly be a pocket.

But there is still the need to hide things, and I think it is probable that some form of rudimentary "pocket" may have been sewn into clothing to accommodate small items--coins, string, etc. It would have been sewn in such a way that it was "invisible" to the casual observer. When I make my "magician's" costume I plan to include a few strategically placed.

Because this is actually Aslak's thread, we may consider to continue under a new thread.