Page 34                                                Fall 1986




Martyn & Florence at the tennis court

(from the May 1965 IJA Newsletter)


The stage setting consisted of a backcloth, painted in perspective, of a tennis court set in a garden. A tennis net was stretched across the stage and two large paper-mache statues of goddesses were set to either side, resembling those found in parks. They were purely decorative, but came in handy during prohibition as their hollow interior usually contained the odd bottle my father got when playing dates in Canada!


When the curtain rose all this setting was concealed behind an enormous plywood tennis racquet, made in sections for pack­ing. The center was pasted over with large sheets of white paper for each performance (old timers were not frightened of work!) and the strings were green foil stretched over the paper. My mother and sister jumped through this large hoop from behind, breaking the paper.


The racket was immediately hauled up to reveal the tennis court scene.


They went into a routine with a racquet and two balls. That set up Dad's entrance with a beer bottle. He threw it over the heads of the audience four or five yards. They invariably cried out, but it returned to his hand on an elastic cord! He tossed it off stage and did a comedy three ball routine featuring spins with strong English. He finished bouncing them off an inclined board to music. As he left he removed the board, as it was customary for acts to leave the stage clear for the following act.


Sister returned with three plates and Mum with three cigar boxes. They worked to music and finished together. (It's a useful tip that if a trick is done to music and finishes at the climax of the music it automatically brings applause.)


Dad returned with three bicycle tire hoops, juggling them very fast and spinning one on his finger. I've never seen anyone else do this, and it's very effective because the hoop is so large. He also did the usual hoop moves, including a roll over the back. Two more hoops arrive from the wings and he rolls five around him, pushing them in both directions. At the finish, they are thrown off with English so that they exit to one wing, then return to exit at the other wing.


Then followed Dad's ball catching routine, a very old trick never seen today which he improved with many gags. The old trick was to catch apples or turnips on a fork held in the mouth, or even use softened apples and break them by letting l them land on your head instead of the fork. Dad used apples at first, but it was unpopular with the management because they stained the stage furnishings.


Dad used fairly large oval shaped cloth balls filled with powdered cork. They were clean and easy to catch on the fork. After juggling and catching them from high tosses, he threw a few to Mom off stage and caught some fast throws from her. Then the house lights were turned on and he tossed them to the audience, beginning with the stalls and continuing way back to the gallery.


The effective part of the trick was the long distance catching. If somebody threw a ball too low he would bring on a baseball bat. Finally he would throw out a specially constructed ball that would hit him on the head and burst into pieces. This got him mad. He picked up a rifle, went through the business of waving back the innocent bystanders and finally fired at the guilty party.


This was a cue to Mom and Sis, who threw at him a shower of balls very fast, which he caught on the fork and threw off, followed by balls painted like cabbages. Next were packages , and finally he caught an especially large package about two yards by one yard which he caught on the fork and staggered off stage carrying.


The stage was filled with balls, cabbages, packages, etc. Under cover of applause the floor carpet was rolled back, thus removing all the debris for the next act.

<--- Previous Page

Return to Main Index