Enjoy an excerpt from my autobiography, Magic Mike Likey: A Man For All Seasons.
10 Trouping-Part 1: The illusions
"Trouping" among professional magicians generally means touring, and/or doing many shows, one after the other, either at a regular venue/location, or multiple ones.
This definition doesn't seem to include performing on cruise ships, which is a completely different category, and of which I have very little knowledge, nor experience; this is pretty much the only thing in the magic world that I've not at the time of this writing done. Performing, say, regular close-up/table-to-table magic at a regular venue is also not included in this category, however, I suppose that if you had a dozen or so close-up magic shows lined up, technically that would be touring or trouping, but strictly speaking, this term is reserved more for stage shows involving larger box illusions.
I purchased my very first illusion (larger, "box-trick") from a local Winnipeg magician/collector of magic, in the very early 1980's. He was a very famous corporate clown for many years in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, a fine magician in his own right specializing in what we refer to as manipulation magic involving complex sleight-of-hand miracles.
It was from he that I purchased my first "Zig-Zag Lady". This illusion was invented by magician Robert Harbin in the 1960's, who also invented a nifty bow-saw sawing a lady in half, folding table, and many other original larger illusions, and I pretty much had to own this if I was to "move up" in the eyes of local agents, enabling us to start to charge higher fees. I had also seen, a couple of years previously at Toronto's recreational park, (where I drew caricatures) a magician/comedian do a very entertaining act involving what we call a "Sucker Die-Box", what eventually became my sponge-ball routine culminating with a sponge number "4", and ending his show with his Zig-Zag Lady! I LOVED seeing this illusion live, as previously I had seen it numerous times on television, thinking it involved mirrors, but to my surprise and chagrin, it did not!
Essentially, your assistant (older magicians used to call them "box-jumpers"!!) steps into an upright, vertical cabinet, placing her face and left-hand through an opening in the upper third, her right-hand through an opening in the middle part, and her left-foot through a hole in the lower third. All body parts are real, I might add at this point, as some other illusions involve using dummy parts, or extra assistants in other cases, but this is a one-person illusion. The magician slides two completely solid blades through openings under the top third and above the lower third. He swings the illusion around (which is on casters) to show that the blades penetrated right through and out the back! Again, the girl's face, hand, and foot are visible the whole time, and in her hand she's waving a silk red scarf! Then, the piece de resistance: he slides completely off to one side the middle part, leaving a large gap in the middle; where IS her middle? With some Zig-Zag models, there's what we call a "tickle-box", or a small door in the middle section which is opened, revealing the girl's tummy and costume, which he tickles, all the while her hand containing the handkerchief waiving to and fro! It's a perfect, angle-proof illusion, suitable for stage, and even allowing for people from the audience to closely inspect everything before, during, and after, because there IS no funny business, nor anything to discover; the cabinet is exactly as it appears, and is not gimmicked in any way! I owned two versions of this illusion, the initial one purchased from my friend, and years later I had one custom-built for me from illusion plans. If you're a seasoned magician, you know who the illusion-builder is. I also had several other illusions built from his plans, including a "Mis-Made Lady", (which I also used to produce myself as a "Stack of Boxes", a guillotine, and a fabulous "Doll's House" pictured, (not from the Osborne plans) used to mysteriously produce my assistants.
Other illusions I owned while trouping also included two different "Metamorphosis" trunks, (where the magician is handcuffed, tied in a sack, locked in a trunk, and then switches places with his female assistant in the blink of an eye, who also ends up having a costume-change!) several suspensions, (which give the illusion that the girl is suspended in mid-air with no visible means of support, several bow-saws sawing-a-lady-in-half, a "Thin-Model Sawing a Lady in Half", (also by this famous illusion designer) not my favorite illusion, I prefer the simple bow-saw version, or better yet, two ropes which visibly and instantly penetrate through the centre of my body! I also owned several "Dagger-Chest" illusions, the quality of them varying greatly from maker to maker! My favorite? The one made by Mak Magic. I enjoyed using an acupuncture theme thanks to magician David Ginn. I found, after trouping for several years at county fairs, malls, and corporate events, that a beautiful (and easy) illusion involving producing a large, colorful bouquet of flowers (I use Abbott's "Botania") elicited (and still does) bigger "ooh's and ahh's" than the large, cumbersome illusions! As my fees started to go up, I slowly fazed out the larger cabinets and boxes, (which were also a pain to put together, especially in some cases where there were no back-stages before shows!) in favor of the "Acupuncture Cabinet", "Chair Suspension", and "Bow-Saw Illusion" which played huge, were easier to set up and transport; combined with my "Botania", I started trouping with a great new show that looked super, while garnering the same $350. fee for 45 minutes!
One set of shows at the scenic "Nickel Days" in Thompson, Manitoba, we were flown up from Winnipeg by prop-plane. As I was also producing doves and rabbits in my shows, in addition to performing "Metamorphosis", the "Zig-Zag" and "Broom Suspension", we smuggled my dwarf rabbit onto the plane under a very pregnant-looking wife's shirt! Another time, I was performing the "Zig-Zag" at St. Pierre-Joli's "Frog Follies"; I realized after returning home, that I had left part of the illusion at the venue! I had to drive a few hours back to retrieve the important part! Ah, the pleasures of trooping!
From Magic Mike Likey: A Man For All Seasons, available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Mike-Likey-Man-Seasons/dp/172211763X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= and McNally Robinson Booksellers: https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/9781722117634/michael-likey/magic-mike-likey