This post is part of a much larger essay on presenting the cups and balls on stage. It will appear in a book planned for a 2023 release.
The thoughts covered here go beyond the cups to routines where the performer is typically standing behind a table for the duration of the routine, like the multiplying bottles, a card stab, and beyond.
The cups and balls is about holding court while performing the routine. Frankly, that’s true with nearly all magic, but even more with the cups, as metal cups, little balls, and produce are emotionally inert items with few if any hooks. The audience won’t care about them unless they care about you.
Holding court, as defined in this essay, consists of making yourself and the audience interactions the focus of the routine. This is done through scripting, pacing, jokes, and what I want to focus on in this post: literally walking away from the performance table.
Think about it. Why stand behind the table the entire time when doing the cups? A stand up cups and balls routine is at minimum a five minute chunk of stage time, so why stand behind the table the whole time?? Ugh. The movement and visual variety of being both beside, away from, and behind the table add to the energy of the routine.
It not only increases the energy of the routine, it ups the amazement value, as in, “How did he know what cup I would choose when he was standing all the way over there?” That’s a huge bang for the buck. It makes the trick BIGGER. A magician standing behind a table is, what, three square feet of floor space? What about a magician standing six feet from the table? That movement plays to the back of the room.
This movement doesn’t dilute focus. It adds focus, as what is more interesting — a stationary performer giving what is most likely a canned script, or a performer that just might walk up to the edge of the stage and address me, a guy in the front row?
This post, like much of what I cover in this blog, isn’t about a new trick, or that matter, a single trick. It’s about making old tricks — or even better, tricks you already do — play better, bigger, stronger …you know, all that good stuff we want.
This post also reflects my packing preferences. With few exceptions, most of the props I use fit in a carry on bag, and the rest in a checked bag. That’s not a lot of real estate. With that in mind, I don’t want the show to feel small. I want big impact with the props I have. Again, it’s about getting more bang for your buck.
All that to say, the advice shared here isn’t just about the cups and balls. With only minor alterations, it’s about
getting giving more in your performances with the tools you have.