Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Home Stretch and REVIEW: Stretching The Truth

Hi all,

Today is May 4th and my wife Libby is scrambling toward the finish line, graduating from college on May 14th, after three years of hell. I say "hell" because in many of her classes, her teachers showed unabashed favoritism, poor teaching techniques, ambiguous instructions and much more. She's got a pile of projects as teachers keep it up right until two days from graduation.

My beef isn't the work, but the fact that in class after class, the skills and techniques she was to learn (web building classes) were largely left undone - in class after class, teachers did not get around to finishing the material they were supposed to teach, leaving Libby with an incomplete education.


Oh well, onto this week's review: Stretching The Truth by Tim Gabrielson and Jim Flagg. It's available for $295 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

EFFECT: You and a randomly chosen audience member will entertain the crowd with an hysterical 7 minute comedy mind reading effect, where you will be attempting to draw a picture of the "volunteers" chosen animal cracker.

You and the audience seem to be one step ahead of the "volunteer" on stage due to you finishing the silly drawing of their animal on the comedy off beat, so only the audience can see and not the "volunteer" on stage.

However, in the end you will completely amaze everyone when the last animal drawn visually changes on paper before their eyes into the correct animal. This drawing is then torn out and handed to the "volunteer" to keep, with an astounding gasp from the audience.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A thorough DVD that explains the handling of the routine and construction of the gimmicked pad and gimmicked cookie container.

You also receive a script, two sketchpads, tape, an exacto knife, two boxes of animal cookies, a piece of metal, a portfolio, and a lot more stuff that's too much to list.

QUALITY OF STUFF: Most of it is basic stuff from an art supply store or an office supply store, so the quality is good but not earthshattering.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Tim & Jim do a good job of explaining how to construct the gimmick, using multiple camera views to get a close up of something during the construction process. It's not perfect, though, as there are times when the camera was on a long shot and you don't get the best shot for something or, maddeningly enough, the camera would dissolve to a new shot just as Tim did something crucial....or, my biggest beef yet, Tim would hold up something and say, "Do this" and then they'd have a not-so-great shot of what he was doing and he then would say, "You wind up with this."

That kind of stuff REALLY annoyed me for reasons I'll get into in a moment. Therefore, while the lighting was good and there were in fact multiple camera angles, the instruction was not perfect. Nevertheless, when I finished, my gimmick did in fact work perfectly. 7 out of 10 on the instructions...if you're like me, you'll need to re-watch things a few times.

QUALITY OF ROUTINE: If you've watched the demo video online, you know this routine is a variation on the classic Cardiographic or Sketchpad Card Rise by Martin Lewis. Lewis is in fact "thanked" at the end of the DVD, which I guess qualifies as crediting.

MY THOUGHTS: First of all, I have to say the original Sketchpad Card Rise instilled in me an amazing feeling of magic when I saw Copperfield do it on one of his TV specials 20 or so years ago. I LOVE the effect, but the problem with it in recent years is the fact that it's so easy to get and perform. If you buy a marketed version, pre-built, it's around $100, which is cheap for a 5 minute stage effect, or even cheaper if you build your own after watching Lewis' wonderful "Making Magic" video.

I myself used Lewis' effect in my night time Family Night school show for many years, but I dropped it 6 years ago as it got to the point where I'd get into the effect and you could hear the mutterings of people in the audience who had seen it before.

I'm not against the classics of magic, but the Sketchpad was so overused and when everyone knows the outcome of this kind of effect, well, many modern audiences don't have the patience for it. (Oh sure, it's all in the presentation and the journey, but still...)

So that brings me to Stretching The Truth and my desire to do a similar effect, but with a twist.

First of all, I love the routine. It's funny and surprising with the classic "Magician in Trouble" plot that is resolved wonderfully. Although the package comes with a written script, honestly, if you've watched the demo online, you've seen the high points. The fact that you're using animal cookies for a humourous "mind reading" experiment is novel and cute.

Now, as much as I like this and as functional as my gimmick is after building it, i have to add that I HATE HATE HATE building my own props. It's just not me. Argh!

I actually put off buying this thing for two years as I was hoping a pre-built version would be released. Nevertheless, my fears were unfounded, as after 3 hours, I had a terrific prop that will serve me well.

There's been some questioning online about how long it takes to build. Some say one, it took three hours. Bear in mind, I'm an absolute doofus when it comes to building props and is usually something I avoid at all costs, so if I can do it, just about anyone can.

My advice: worry less about the time it takes to build and concentrate on making the prop the best you can....if I found my attention wandering, I'd walk away and take a break, so it was probably really only two hours...maybe.:)

ANGLES: The angles on this are actually better than the Sketchpad Card Rise because of a neat little addition Tim has made which will help your side angles a bit. It's this addition and a few others that really show this baby has been ironed out in the real world.

MARKET: I'm putting this in my for-all-ages-family show, but I can also see this appealing to adult shows because of the comedy and the mind reading premise.

VALUE FOR THE PRICE: It's a good value in terms of the structure of the routine, the instruction coming to the gimmicks and the little details when it comes to ironing out the kinks of the performance, but in terms of physical stuff, I'd say no....the value of this is the intellectual property and not the physical stuff you get.

OVERALL RATING: This is a good product. I'm not thrilled with the building aspect, and I would have gladly paid a hundred or more extra dollars to get a pre-built one, but it's a great routine. I'll give it an 8 out of 10...great routine.

NEXT WEEK: Cody Fisher's Silk2Egg

Questions? Comments? Sign up for the Cause & Effects ezine? Email me at


Cris Johnson

No comments:

Post a Comment