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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The March 2006 entrée: Tim Ellis & Sue-Anne Webster » » Inspiration from Runaround Sue » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

revlovejoy
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I had the pleasure of attending your lecture tour last April. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I have almost all of your published material, recently adding the Runaround Sue DVD.

When I saw you perform it the first time at the lecture, I was about 2 feet away. I was blown away. Then to get the lecture with the methods was more than I could have asked for after an already solid lecture. It inspired me to do cups and balls finally! I got the DVD about a month ago.

Now here's the question, in a round-about sort of way: would you actually anticipate that anynoe else would do your routine as published/explained?

Here's what I mean. When I saw the routine itself, I was pure spectator. When I saw the lecture part, the magician's brain starting working, and I could see myself learning the moves, techniques, and subtleties you were teaching. But I would feel like a complete ripoff artist if I were to don a black leather jacket, use a jukebox and the theme of runaround sue. (Too bad, because I live in an area with several old time malt shops.) In my case, I immediately knew the theme I would routine, since I've been looking for a routine to fit this theme for some time now. Ironically, I discussed your DVD with a reviewer from the Visions website (he loved it BTW), and we independelty came up with the same music, theme, and character from your routine's inspiration. We've agreed to stay on opposite coasts and not compete. Smile

So on one level, the DVD is gold just from the perspective of getting to see how a working pro's brain works in creating a routine. The evolution was very helpful to see. It's instructional even if one never does a variation on cups and balls.

But on another level, I would feel strange doing it just as taught. But it is a teaching DVD after all. In Lance Pierce's new book "World Famous Bowl Routine," he says "if I see you someday doing this routine EXACTLY as I have, we've both not done our jobs." If I saw someone other than Tim Ellis doing this routine, I would think ripoff.

So I intend to use the instructional portions to learn moves and methods. But let me ask this: if somehow, you came across someone like me who had the DVD, and saw a performance where I was using your same moves, 2 cups and one ball, with a thematic coat and possibly even the sunglasses, but the theme, character, music, and plotline were different, would you think:

1 - "this fellow has completely copped my routine."
2 - "good on him for taking what I taught and making it his own."
3 - "why o why did I ever teach Runaround Sue to the unwashed masses?"

I've been dying to ask this somewhere on the Café to see what others thought, but given the chance to ask the creator directly, I post it here.
Tim Ellis
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Very interesting question Rev.

When I started doing 'Runaround Sue' in the lectures a young guy here in Australia gave me a video of himself performing his version of the routine. It was interesting because he didn't have the moves down, but he used the same theme. So it came across as a weak copy of 'Runaround Sue'. A short time later he told me he was disatisfied with what he'd come up with and changed the whole theme of the routine from milkshake cups to popcorn boxes and he felt much more comfortable with it.

It's interesting because he had discovered the same thing that lead me to come up with 'Runaround Sue' in the first place.

I was originally inspired seeing Michael Ammar do his cups and balls at FISM in 1991. I realised I couldn't compete with his version, there was just no way I could perform such a classic routine better than he had done, so I changed the playing field. I did the same trick, essentially, but with a completely different presentation.

Ideally, that is what people are going to take away from 'Runaround Sue'. It is still just the cups and balls, but by releasing it and explaining it all in so much detail I hope to inspire people to take other classic tricks and "reinvent" them so to speak.

Having released the DVD though, there's no way I could think your option number one. Yes, anyone can now copy the entire 'Runaround Sue' routine (and people have written to me saying they have won magic contests with it!) but I do like that line from Lance Pierce "If I see you someday doing this routine EXACTLY as I have, we've both not done our jobs."

As for option number two, if you did make the routine your own, you probably wouldn't be wearing the suunglasses and the leather jacket... ideally, I wouldn't even recognise ANY 'Runaround Sue' in your routine at all! Smile

As for 3... well, I know why I taught 'Runaround Sue', I just hope my intention came across properly on the DVD.

The challenge for me is to create another piece as well routined as 'Runaround Sue', but completely different...



On the same point but a different trick, one routine I haven't released, though it is performed on the DVDs, is the 'Six Card Rap'. I do think option number one when I see clips of someone doing the rap... I can accept watching someone else perform 'Runaround Sue', but the rap... it's just too weird.
revlovejoy
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Thanks for the insight. It assures me I am on the right track. I'm definitely utilizing a coat, but nothing like a leather jacket. I just never wanted to do the Smile until I saw your routine. Nothing against the greats like Ammar, but taking it to a fully developed story/theme that's about neither cups, nor balls, that's what I liked. Smile

It is interesting to hear about the kid who did try to do it exactly as-is to start out. Glad to hear he found his own way.

The six-card rap is weird enough as it is! But you get away with it, because it's all yours. I understand why you react with option #1 there. Smile

Should I ever get this to the point where I imagine it, I will send a video so you can see either what you inspired, or the monster you created!
BarryFernelius
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I have a magic acquaintance who does Tim's Runaround Sue routine EXACTLY as it's done on the DVD. I told him that I thought that he shouldn't do that; instead he should find a way to make the routine fit him. (I said this because the routine doesn't really fit him or his personality.) He became very angry and stated that because he purchased the routine, he had the right to perform it.

I told him that this was not in dispute; yes, he certainly COULD do the routine. I was merely suggesting that he SHOULDN'T do the routine. And after telling him this, he just became angrier, and hasn't spoken to me since.

I know that it's a teaching DVD, but some students don't understand the lesson.
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."

-Leonard Bernstein
Tim Ellis
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REV - I'd love to see your routine once you get it up and running.

BARRY - That's the first I've heard of such a strong reaction to the routine! Smile It is interesting though, how some routines just don't fit some magicians. I'm reading Jim Steinmeyer's excellent book 'HIDING THE ELEPHANT' at the moment and last night I read a chapter that said exactly that. Some routines look like tailor-made suits on certain magicians, and old battered hand-me-downs on others. I guess the hardest thing for many magicians to do is to tear themselves away from that "magic mirror" that tells them every suit they buy fits them perfectly.
Brad Burt
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I don't know if this is too recondite, but when one gets to the point in 'becoming' a psycho therapist that they are looking finally at licensure one thing they have to do is go into therapy themselves. A friend once commented that it was too bad that there was not something similar that magicians HAD to go through before they were allowed out in public. The problem of course is the 'had' part. I suggested that anyone who really wanted could get together enough fellow magicians and tell them to rip what he or she was doing apart, in as constructive a manner as possible of course. My friend noted that that was a great idea....but, of course, not for him.

My other suggestion to those interested in really pushing their act forward was to take ACTING classes as a way to become invested with method for finding what is right for THEM character wise. I have had very positive feedback from those who actualy tried this! Best,
Brad Burt
Tim Ellis
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BRAD - Great to hear from you! I remember communicating you way back in the day when I owned Bernard's Magic Shop. Your store and the way you conducted business was always an inspiration.

It is an interesting point you raise. Many people say all you really need to become a professional magician is a business card Smile

Years ago the entertainment agents here had a very bad name. Many were shonky, bad with payments, hopeless at getting the correct details etc. So it was suggested an Agents Association was formed. Did that solve the problem... not really, the association was formed by the shonky agents!

As far as performers ripping each other's acts apart... We have actually done what you suggested many times. Over the years I've held various 'Magic Nights' and one of the regular segments was to have someone who was working on an act perform it and get an honest critique from all present. (To be honest, I've always thought that magic clubs would do this sort of thing at every meeting). The problem is that it always comes back to ego... some performers can't just listen to the criticism and absorb it, they first look at the person who criticised them and decide whether he or she is "qualified" to "cast judgement".

Every person who watches your act is a spectator.

If they take the time to make a comment on your act, whether it's good, bad, or nonsensical, you should listen.

If they say "I could see the pull." Don't try to defend yourself, if they saw it, imagine how many others saw it too but didn't say anything. Now, if they made that comment and you weren't using a pull don't you think you could learn something from that as well? What did they see? How can you stop people from "seeing" it next time?

The worst kind of criticism is not "Your act was horrible" it's "Your act was fantastic!" when it wasn't. Either these people want to flatter you and get it over with, or they feel you can't take honest criticism.

(Quick story. Our friend Anthony DeMasi did his act at a Magic Night a few year's ago. He did a dove pan with way too much fire and, as soon as he opened the lid, the dove flew out and perched up on a rafter. For the next few minutes he pulled all sorts of things out of his case trying to lure the dove back down so he could finish his act. Finally he pulled out a rubber dove which he tossed up at the real dove to try to shift it. Unfortunately, the rubber dove landed, sitting correctly, on the perch right next to the real one. It was hilarious!!! To cap things off, the real dove snuggled up close to the rubber one and proceeded to mount it. Fast forward about ten minutes when the laughter had finally stopped, Anthony asked the audience if they had any feedback - Chuck Fayne said that he wouldn't change a single thing. He said that if Anthony could do that exact same act every night he'd be a superstar).



Acting classes is a great idea Brad, I can see how that can help tremendously. Sue-Anne is a trained actor and it shows on stage. I've done some acting, but no training. (Though Keith Johnstone is coming to town in May and I'd love to do a workshop with the father of TheatreSports...)
Brad Burt
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Dear Tim:
Great to see you here! The question that immeadiately comes to mind is whether Mr. DeMasi was able to reproduce that above act...What a truly funny story!

On taking acting classes...I don't think most magicians really appreciate just how powerful this is. At the very least I recommend that magicians read Uta Hagen's 'Respect for Acting' a classic text. Everyone talks about finding the stuff that's 'them', but very few magicians know who the them is. I'm not sure that came out right. WE as performing magicians NEED to KNOW who we are. A horde of questions come about by considering this: What are we doing and why? Where are we going with it? Etc.

On the question of critical analysis....I understand why most folks in magic even some pros do NOT like critisism of their act. I don't. I hate. But, I learned to
ENDURE it and I almost always MADE CHANGES based on what I heard. That's not virtue by the way. That's 18 years of weekly psychotherapy for a severe form of depression! My suggestion to you guys....don't wait for the therapy....get other magicians to rip you up and learn from it. Learn to learn from it. It's a nasty brutish business and no one says we 'have' to like it, but to truly get better at what we do, we need it.

Part of the problem is that most of the folks in magic are nice. I mean REALLY nice folks. I love the magic community. A nicer group (with some very small exceptions) you simply will not find anywhere on the planet. Generous, kind, the best. But, that is part of the problem. We really don't want to hurt the ones we love and we want the same in return. It's a stumper. That said, Tim, I think you found the only method that works...you get together a group of guys and gals that want to go through the process. You both rip each other up and support each other at the same time. With Foster's Lager as a post rip-up bandaid! All best,
Brad Burt
revlovejoy
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The need for REAL critique became apparant to me some time ago. I knew I needed to amp up my presentational skills in my act, but I wasn't sure how to do it. I found the Café, and I've gained a lot just from this site. It's where I heard about Ellis and Webster just in time to see their lecture, for one.

I have been to a couple of IBM ring meetings, and they all seem like nice folks. But I doubt I would get honest critique. Most members seem to be focused on closeup, whereas I am doing a platform show. "Watch this" is more the order of the day.

I will be debuting my new and improved show in late April. A month ago I PM'ed a Café member who lives near the venue, to ask if he would attend and give me honest criticism. I did not know him personally at the time, but I know he is very helpful on the forum and is genuinely interested in seeing other magicians do well. Barring a paying gig for him, he will be at my gig, and we are pm'ing ideas before the show. I offered a consulting fee, and I was told that wouldn't be an option: just take the suggestions and use them.

I am anticipating this show now not just for the original reasons behind doing it, but now I have an added component to look forward to. This magician's input as a working pro will be invaluable to me. I hope that as I get active in the local rting, I can find that kind of honest feedback closer to home.

Sometimes all it takes in life is to ask directly. Too often "what did you think?" really means "tell me it was perfect." People are not used to being asked for full critiques. It has to be explicit and you have to in some way say "no really, full on honest opinion."
Tim Ellis
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Brad - Anthony has never been able to do the same act twice! Smile That's part of the charm of his shows, you never know what's going to happen because he allows things to happen... and to me, that's one of the secrets of a great magician.

One performer I used to send out to gigs years ago had not learned this. Every time I spoke to the clients they seemed disappointed in him and, on further probing, the explained that he had a volunteer was on stage with him and the volunteer said something spontaneously, this guy gave him a look that would kill. A look that said "You don't have any lines here!"

Actually, a friend said he saw something similar when Robert Gallup visited our shores for an illusion show tour. Robert did a milk can escape and would ask people to check that a big metal surface was solid. One night a guy from the audience started tapping it with his foot, then went into an amazing freestyle tap-dancing routine. The audience went wild, Robert looked p'd off and stopped him. These are the moments you LIVE FOR! Let the audience share the spotlight. (Off course there are exceptions when they completely upstage you.... start another thread if you want to hear my upstaged stories! Smile )


And yes Brad, the magic community are, by and large, EXTREMELY nice and hospitable folks, but I know exactly what you mean by being too nice sometimes. Often people think that by giving someone a bad rap on their act, you are attacking the person. Not at all. Some folk simply should not be performing for the public and it's cruel (to them AND the public) to give them false hope. Yes, by all means, perform as a hobby, do tricks for your friends and family, but be realistic about your CURRENT situation. That doesn't mean that you should NEVER perform for the public, with practise and experience you probably will be good enough, but inexperienced performers out there calling themselves magicians gives the artform a bad rep and actually STOPS the bad magician from getting any better.

I'm not putting anyone down here, I've been there myself, quite often performers go out there and start working way too soon.

How would you, as a booker feel, if you hired a violinist for a party only to discover that all they could play was 'scales'?

Yet so often I see performers buy a few tricks, practice them twice at home, do them at the club and get high praise from their fellow members... within a MONTH (I'm not kidding) they have business cards printed and are out there approaching restaurants and corporate clients.

The scary thing is, the clients generally haven't seen much magic so, when a guy comesup to them and says "Hi, I was voted magic act of the year!" and he's TERRIBLE, they say "Well, if he's the best magician out there, I'm not going to book a magician again."

Anyway, there's a fine line between encouraging a fellow magician, and giving them false hope. I think the solution lies somewhere in between. (BTW: I'm a terrible encourager, just ask Sue-Anne. I was taught by Lyndsay Reitschel... I'll have to start a thread about him... and I think I've subconciously adopted his blunt, straight to the point... insensitive... critiquing methods).
Ron Giesecke
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Tim,

What amazed me about Runaround Sue is the way you galvanized a cups and balls act to a point that it goes right to the edge of the definition of "cups and balls."

I found your act completely inspiring, without ever having a desire to replicate it in any way. I think more than anything, your take on the cups and balls brings into relief the self-imposed creative restraints with which most of us shackle ourselves.

My opinion of your routine's greatest application: Those wanting to forge their own routine should do the following: set Vernon's routine down on the table, right next to yours. Then imagine all that lies between them.

Just my two cents without a shell . . .

Ron
Bryan Gilles
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Well said Ron...

Tim- I second everything Ron just said about "Run Around Sue"...

Bryan
Tim Ellis
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Ron & Bryan, thank you so much for your very kind words. It really makes all the work worthwhile.
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