Mike Rogers – Bothered

Columnist:
Mike Rogers
By Mike Rogers

I’d better put the firewalls up, for I know I’ll be flamed to the max for what I’m about to say. However, something has me bothered. It’s simply this. When is it acceptable to do the act or material of another? Why would I ask that? It is old hat. We learn from day one not to copy another. Be original.. Be original.. Be originalWe’ve all heard it until we are sick of hearing it. Moreover, we all say we agree. Use your own patter, use your own presentation, and use your own performing style. Right? Right. That being said, do we really endorse this concept of ethics in performing?

I think so, but alas, I think not. If another magician were to duplicate my act, present it as my act, do it like I do it, do it extremely well, maybe even better than I can do it, would I be pleased? Flattered? Complimented? Absolutely not! The same can be said for any act in show business. So what’s the point of this drivel? Most, I believe, would agree with what I’ve said. The point is this. What if I were dead, in the ground, having a body temperature matching that of the soil? (At times I think some wish I were there!)

Have things changed? Perhaps so. Is it OK to copy and duplicate the act of an entertainer no longer living? Think about it for a minute. Hal Holbrook has made a career doing Mark Twain. Everyone seeing the program loves the show. Likewise, a friend of mine has built a delightful show portraying the character of one of America’s most beloved past comics. Still another magician who held high office in a large magic society is traveling the country doing the material of one of his mentors who was a much beloved man in all of magic. Moreover, the late Elvis Presley probably has more road companies than any entertainer in history.

The people being copied are no longer among the living. Simply put, I guess it’s OK to copy another if the one being copied is no longer among the breathing population. It’s then called a tribute. It goes deeper though. There is a difference. When Hal Holbrook does Mark Twain he is demonstrating acting skills. Obviously Mr. Holbrook never saw Mark Twain, so his impressions are truly acting. He is portraying Mark Twain as we might have enjoyed seeing him in real life, or as Holbrook and his director assume Mr. Twain to have been. It’s acting, superb acting at its best. My friend Mike Stavrou, a transplanted yank living in Sydney, put it this way. Do I have to die to get respect?

That being said, when an entertainer portrays a departed icon is it still acting if he has seen and known the departed one in real life? Is that acting, or is that simply copying? If it’s copying why is it acceptable if the honored one is dead, but not acceptable if the honored one were alive?

I don’t know. You tell me.