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John Pezzullo
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Quote:
I have always taken to heart the advice that if you want to build a magic act, then specialise. I would love to know where I first read that advice but I don't recall. Then you are not just another magician, you're 'that guy with coins', or you're 'that guy with the light bulbs' etc. It gives you an identity.


Whilst this may be true in some cases, it's not true in all cases.

A few examples should suffice - Paul Daniels, Mac King, Wayne Dobson, Tommy Wonder, and Billy McComb.
"One arrow. One life."
Brian Caswell
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Thank you John for pointing out that not all magicians specialise!
Glad someone noticed that. Cripes! Left as it was, my post could have been a veritable time bomb. What the heck type of subversive magic books did I read as a nipper! Only kidding.

So where was I. I bought every book I could find on Rope magic. I created my little act with just rope. I have never worked silent, always pattered, and always believed that what you say can build or break effects. Now it's the patter in an act that takes time. Consequently, I quickly found that my routine was not going to be confined to twenty minutes.

I started to think this is a thirty minute cabaret spot. I performed it several times with reasonable success, and even worked for forty minutes one time. It was at this point I first discovered the work of rope experts from the latter quarter of the 20th. century - Colombini, Pavel, Tabary, who were not mentioned in the three volumes of the old encyclopedia of rope tricks and other texts. Most of their work appeared on video which I had not really looked at, up to that point.

What I found was so radically different, I decided it could work in addition to what I was doing. An arguably ridiculous idea took root in my mind. As a personal challenge, I conceived the idea of standing in front of a group of people and attempting to entertain with rope for a whole hour! The time period was quite arbitary, but based on what I had done already and pushing things to the extreme.

The principles used in creating such an act and what the act consisted of, in the next episode. TBC..

Once again must dash.

Brian Caswell http://www.unearthlymagic.com
Al Angello
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Brian
I have over an hour or more of rope magic that I cary in my brief case, but I have never thought of doing them all in the same performance. You must have a strong verbal presentation to support such a dry selection of tricks. I have comtemplated a one hour rope workshop for magicians, but never a one hour rope magic show for an audience.
GOOD LUCK MY FRIEND
Al Angello
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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Brian Caswell
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Thank you for that interjection Al. Some people are reading this saga then!
I would say a good sense of comedy helps, but I also say an audience doesn't necessarily have fixed ideas about what you are supposed to do. They aren't automatically going to complain if you don't do any card tricks and you miss out the linking rings.

So the act went like this - the first four or five minutes were performed silent in a mime character. Some strong visual magic. The first spoken words are, good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.... That was an example of magic using rope. I hope you enjoyed it.....................cos there's another fifty-five minutes of it.

If you can't get a laugh with that, try needlework. So I set up the challenge and laid out my credentials at the start. Then it becomes quite funny - every time you put away a set of ropes you bring out another set. The fact that you manage to do something different with them every time becomes impressive. The concept is that at the end of an hour the audience are aware that they have witnessed an absolute expert in one little corner of magic, a quite unique performance, a tour de force.

To create the show, I tried to ****yse everything you could do with rope in a magic context. My ****ysis suggests that there is a sum total of about ten completely different possibilities - a rope can magically change length, it can be used in penetration effects, it can be used in fancy knot tying and juggling type of effects, it can change colour, multiply, be used to restrain a person who magically escapes and so on. One principle I employed was that I wasn't going to repeat a magical effect. This was somewhat tempered by the fact that a thing like penetration effects involving rope is such a huge area that you can easily do a couple of tricks from this which will appear quite different. Another departure from the rule is deliberate repetition where desirable. 'Do it again ,mister' is a frequent request. You repeat your cut and restored using a completely different method and your audience is doubly fooled and entertained.

Run out of time more later.

Brian Caswell http://www.unearthlymagic.com
Al Angello
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Brian
I thought I was a rope nut, but now I think you are nuttier than me, and John Long put together. Just how many rope tricks do you do in an hour? What a shame you live in England I'de love to see your show.
Al Angello
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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"Footprints on your ceiling are almost gone"
Brian Caswell
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Actually Al, I was wild and crazy long before Steve Martin even thought of the idea. I don't think you necessarily need a large number of tricks. For example I once did a fifteen minute competition entry which was arguably ONE trick. My 'magician' character started out normal, but gradually exhibited signs of derangement.

He had a set of three ropes which kept changing length. One minute they were all different lengths then they were all the same length, then different again etc. Magically this involved eight changes by eight different methods. To an audience, by and large, this is the same type of thing happening eight times (amongst a fair amount of other comedy business). What made the act, was my character just become more and more confused by the unwanted changes, culminating in a bout of total gibbering. Cue the appearance of an attendent in the proverbial white coat, who lead me slowly off stage. It won the competition, not a big deal particularly, it was only a local club do, but it did see off other professional magic acts and had the approval of the room.

Part of this sequence was in the hour long show. Other elements of variety in the show were : audience participation - you get some one up to cut and restore a rope (or not) as the case may be. I also modified the poem in the encyclopedia of rope tricks for a short recitation about the indian rope trick. Forty minutes into the show I introduced coloured ropes - there's such a string of wonderful things you can do with ropes that have one section red and one section white, distinguishable rings of rope and so on.

But I come back to talking to an audience. I have always desired to set up my magic by making it crytal clear to them what's supposed to be going on. Doing the trick maybe only takes a few seconds, but talking to the crowd, that's what takes the time.

So was an hour of rope magic a successful act? TBC

Brian Caswell http://www.unearthlymagic.com
murf
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Wow, fascinating stuff! I've been VERY BUSY for a couple of days, and just now took a couple of minutes to catch up on the rope news. I always say I'm looking for a few tricks to do between the rope tricks, but maybe I should just stay with the ropes. Like Al, I'd LOVE to see your show!

Murf
Al Angello
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Guys
I'm thinking you would have to do 12, 5 minute rope routines for a one hour show. Man you have got to have a lot of good jokes to make that one work, but it also could be a great framwork for a good comedy mind.
Al Angello
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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Brian Caswell
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Thanks for reading the posts Murf, still a touch skeptical Al?! Well of course I don't advocate this for everyone, naturally. But I will say my hour of rope magic was not a comedy act. Sure, it contained plenty of laughs, but people afterwards would speak of seeing an unusual magic show, not a comedian who did some magic. The competion entry I described for example was funny, but the magic element was also very strong. Although I was repeatedly doing much the same effect, people could see that in each phase the handling was different. Audience members maybe form a theory as to how the ropes might 'stretch', but then have to abandon that theory as you switch to another method. Sound principles, producing strong magic.

I don't believe you have to be a great comedian. I think it's about knowing how to present magic effectively, causing people to be interested in what you are doing, getting them to share your enthusiasm, making it clear what the effect is, making them comfortable, selling them on the idea that although your next effect is also done with a piece of rope, it's actually something quite different, letting them know when they can applaud. All grand ideas, not always feasible if it's a drunken new year's eve party I'll grant you!

It's hardly surprising that the concept of my show raises more than a few eyebrows among magicians. I don't recall anyone ever looking pensive and saying "you know something, I think it might just work!" Against that, there ARE people who do an hour with cards, are there not? In the UK here, Paul Gordon, a nice fellow, well known for his books on card effects, goes out with just a pack of cards! He says that he doesn't mention this to the folks who book him, and further to that, claims he's never been called on it! (I have to say there is a body of opinion that suggests he carries a set of sponge balls in the other pocket just in case! Whether that's true or not I don't know!)

Now I'll grant you that rope is less versatile a medium, but I feel that I did prove that an hour is possible, in the right circumstances.

Which are? Well I wouldn't attempt it, if it wasn't billed in advance. I don't see it as a bread and butter everyday magic act. I did try it in a cabaret setting several times. I got away with it, but only by changing style to interact and include the audience more. The cabaret setting wouldn't fully stand the act as I wanted to present it. I did indeed have to wing it with more comedy.

Where it did truly work, was as a stage show. In that setting you've got a chance to develop your theme. Not that magicians get the luxury of a theatre setting very often these days, but in that context, as I mentioned before, such an hour long tour-de-force concluding with a modern rope routine such as the cascade of magical effects flowing from a Tabary type routine, I found to be encore material.

I've always liked the idea of specialising, becoming a bit of an expert in one area. Not taken to extremes necessarily as I did, but I think it's a useful way of focusing your ideas in magic and helping build an act.

Brian Caswell http://www.unearthlymagic.com
Al Angello
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Brian
I think you are crazy, but you are my kind of crazy. Tell me just what tricks you do, perhaps we can share some favorites? Do you use scisors, or rings? Have you checked out Roland Hennings stuff at the magic video depot? He combines moves from different tricks to make his own routines. Brian there are lots of card, and coin nuts, but very few of us rope nuts, you are my kind of crazy.

I'm a little disappointed there are no pictures on your web site.
Al Angello
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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http://home.comcast.net/~juggleral/
"Footprints on your ceiling are almost gone"
Brian Caswell
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Thanks for that Al. Be happy to list some of the details of the rope work I have done.

Did you mean pictures of ME on the website?! If so, I'm afraid I'm the guy with the bald patch demming in a couple of the videos! There is one still photo of me in my profile details, looking moody. (Click on the name on the product page). That photo looks quite atmospheric I thought.

However, I wrote an article for the UK-based magazine 'MagicSeen' and they used that photo with the article, only much larger, and with full resolution for a glossy mag. What the little photo on the website doesn't really show is two or three days growth of stubble, which I hadn't realized! Well I can tell you, it does show very nicely thank you on a big print! To put a positive spin on it, I decided that it at least gave me some street cred!

There are two or three new items that I consider I have created in the area of rope magic, but mostly it's going to be the way I present and routine existing effects that might possibly provide some novelty. Are you interested in the length changing routine? Most people stop with the Bob carver method. Still excellent of course, but arguably a bit overused. My researches into the effect found several different methods with which to build a very powerful routine.

Look forward to sharing some stuff with you.

Brian Caswell http://www.unearthlymagic.com
Al Angello
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Brian
My favorite rope trick these days is the Dennis Loomis knot routine combined with a variation of Daryl's acrobatic knot in the middle. I competed with it locally at the IBM ring 6 stage competition last week, and I will find out the results at our January meeting. It was only 6 minutes long, which is nothing for you, but I liked it because no one around here does either routine. Be sure to check out the Roland Henning routines at the video depot he is quite a good rope magician.
Al Angello
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
http://www.juggleral.com
http://home.comcast.net/~juggleral/
"Footprints on your ceiling are almost gone"
Brian Caswell
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Al, thanks for the info. The knot routine I do is based on that of Sid Lorraine, which goes back more than 60 years. It's so old it's new again! You can even recycle some of the jokes he evidently used to do, and get away with it!

Brian Caswell http://www.unearthlymagic.com
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