This set, which I acquired from a reputable magic dealer, is not only of the proper proportions, but also the appropriate quality and (importantly), weight. They were a value in that the set also came with a Chop Cup and shell.
Ultimately, the routine is the key to a satisfying Cups and Balls performance. With so much material available from some of the greatest practitioners of this trick, it can feel intimidating and overwhelming to assemble a routine to present professionally. But one (namely I) must also remember that along with the trick’s formidable history, the Cups and Balls is also a continually evolving magic organism with slights, moves, and handlings being tinkered with and improved by magicians both professional and amateur all over the world. A deck of cards, another classic magic instrument, is similar in that respect.
After a few weeks, I’m pleased to have a first draft of a routine that seems to fit Smallini’s persone and is fun to perform. I decided early on that the props must work together in tandem with the figure of Smallini (myself). As the cups and I are approximately the same height, it appears as if the tiny magician is directing the action as the cups (and he) are being moved around on the stage.
The routine begins with the balls appearing on top of the cups, one by one, in a triangular direction with Smallini in the center of the formation (I consulted a Frank Garcia handling on making the balls all appear on the top of one cup, but decided that it was not visual enough as an opener, so I changed it, but kept one of his moves). I’m proud of the appearance of the third ball, as it differs from the previous two by the showing of both hands clearly empty right before the ball appears on top of the cup. With practice, It looks very smooth. I’m sure there is precedent for the idea (perhaps going back hundreds of years - I would need to ask a knowledgeable magician about that), but I stumbled upon the idea myself, which is a nice, if rare, thing to happen when practicing magic.
The second phase of the routine is a bit from the late Mark Wilson’s seminal book - some switcheroo of the balls after they’ve been placed under the cups from the front. I wanted to keep this section brief - a little playful hide and seek before the set up for the final sequence.
I changed the final ending one usually sees in Cups and Balls routines to fit my stage show. Instead of the balls being placed in one’s pocket (as would be fit for close-up work), I place them in a nicely decorated box sitting atop a dollhouse side table. When the door to the box is opened, the balls have vanished and the cups make their classic reveal of the three large loads. I haven’t seen another piece of magic apparatus on stage being used with the Cups and Balls before, but again, given that this is probably the oldest magic trick known to man, there could be another instance of that published somewhere, but maybe with not the type of box I’m using (a classic Mirror Box - perhaps the smallest one ever, at 1 ½” square. I made it myself).
Immediately after the balls have vanished from the box, the three cups are tipped over to reveal a red grape inside. These grapes are gathered up and placed in a small decorative dish that has been brought onstage. Without hesitation, the cups are stacked and a small sherry glass is set down next to them. Surprisingly, wine is poured from the cups into the glass!
Both the dish of grapes and the glass of wine are brought to the front of the stage (the curtain falling behind them), where the magician offers an audience member to sample the fare.
The whole routine is quite brief, coming in at two minutes or so, but it contains a variety of action and surprises. I like the idea of the audience remembering the cups and balls as only a part of this routine, along with the vanishing box and the appearance of grapes and wine. In fact, when the curtain falls, it is only the grapes and wine that remain visible, a simple ending image that closes the routine, with all other props unseen.