“Scouting toughens you up. Scouting teaches you not to whinge and give up
when things get tough, but to find a way to survive and succeed.”
- Sue-Anne Webster
Sue-Anne Webster is recognised throughout the world as Australia’s top female magician. Not only is she a performer, she's also a lecturer, inventor, illustrator, author… and a proud Queen’s Scout!
Sue-Anne is one of only two living Australian Magicians to be internationally recognised in the Dictionnaire de la Prestidigitation - the definitive history book of magic spanning the centuries - alongside Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, Orson Welles and Siegfried & Roy.
She is President of the Australian Institute of Magic, is the official Jeannie lookalike for www.IDreamOfJeannie.com, and has developed one of the most dangerous illusions performed in the world today… in which she saws her husband and fellow magician, Tim Ellis, in half with a live chainsaw!
“Scouting teaches you to take precautions and stay sensible when things are dangerous,” Sue-Anne said… and there’s no doubt that Tim is grateful for that!
A tomboy who ‘loved to get her hands dirty’, Sue-Anne joined the 1st Wentworthville Venturer Unit in Sydney at the age of 14.
“My father, John Webster (Skip) had been involved in Scouting all his life. He loved it. The Scouting movement consumed his spare time, and he spoke words like ‘abseiling’, which brought visions of sailing on cool water under blue skies! Dad laughed at that,” Sue-Anne said.
“I saw his enthusiasm and wanted very much to get to know him better, so I asked him if I could join the Scouts. He was blown away by that. I was 14 years old and thankfully he was a Venturer Leader at the time for a Unit that accepted girls. It was an absolutely fantastic group of guys. I had a brilliant time.”
Sue-Anne thrived as a Venturer, looking forward to every meeting and outing. She participated in outdoor adventures such as caving, rock climbing, canyoning, bushwalking, but also thoroughly enjoyed the talks, games, learning about life – its hazards and opportunities – and the friendship.
“I loved the fact the guys didn't treat me like a girl; that I was trusted to play my part in activities as 'one of the boys',” she said. “I guess the whole involvement of sharing my young life - achievements and experiences - with others who were excited and happy to share theirs with me, is one of my favourite memories.”
The highlight of Sue-Anne’s Scouting career was achieving the Queen’s Scout Award in 1981.
“The night I told my dad I completed the Queen’s Scout Award, he fell backwards. He said, ‘But, you only started it 14 months ago!’ I loved the look on his face. He was so proud.”
Meanwhile, Sue-Anne had developed an interest in magic and performing. As a child she learned many tricks on her own, and even had her own 'Tommy Talker' ventriloquist doll. Her interest in the performing arts led her to work in television for the ABC after leaving school, and in 1988 she began magic lessons with Turoa Walmsley, a magician with an interest in helping young people develop their skills in magic.
She began performing as a female magician in nursing homes, children's parties, public shows in Town Halls and later regular gigs at cafes and restaurants around Sydney. She studied drama at The Australian Playhouse Studio in Sydney from 1990 to 1992 and went on to educate herself in Advanced Film and Television and Screen Acting Technique at The Actor's Centre in Sydney. She also studied Pyrotechnics, Latin Dance, Puppetry and Mime. She has worked as an actor in many stage shows, film productions, TV commercials, a television sitcom and even a music video.
She met her husband Tim in 1997 and began working as a female magician with Magic Unlimited in Melbourne. She performed regularly in stage shows, and began performing close up magic in character as 'Jeannie' from the TV show 'I Dream of Jeannie'. A photo of her in costume was spotted by the founder of www.IDreamOfJeannie.com, who made her the official Jeannie lookalike. She has won numerous magic awards and accolades in Australia and internationally.
Sue-Anne believes that Scouting equipped her with many skills that have assisted her in her career and personal life.
“Scouting offers a great outlook on life. When life deals you a blow, you can look back and see what incredible things you achieved at a very young age and remember the camaraderie you had with your friends. It gives young people an incredible sense of self worth, of 'belonging' and a solid inner strength that can get you through just about anything life throws at you. There is definitely a sense of humour to be gained in Scouting... and an ability to roll with the punches. You gain an ability to solve problems with positive outcomes,” she said.
“Scouting toughens you up. Scouting teaches you not to whinge and give up when things get tough, but to find a way to survive and succeed. It teaches you to take precautions and stay sensible when things are dangerous - like when I saw my husband and partner in magic - Tim Ellis in halves with a live chainsaw. It teaches you to do your best ... my goodness, I'm always trying to do my best for the I Dream of Jeannie fans.
“Scouting has also definitely taught me how to communicate with men - 'speak their language' - which I think has probably helped me go further in the magic profession. Most men in magic are extraordinary and wonderful people - happy for a woman to be involved with their 'obsession' - but some can slug you hard, too... as can staying in business and surviving as a full time entertainer in this obscure field.”
Sue-Anne feels lucky to have a profession that is also her passion. Magic involves creativity in many areas - developing new magic tricks, props, set design and costuming - as well as skills in puppetry, mime, movement, dance, voice work and accents. When not working, she enjoys a bit of physical exercise, turning her house into another world (with bottomless pits and time tunnels), and writing. She also has a great interest in Christianity, and uses her knowledge of magic to expose frauds and tricksters who use sleight of hand and psychology to further a belief in the occult.
Despite her long list of achievements, her ultimate lifetime goal is to be remembered as a loving person. And her words of advice for today’s youth?
“Be involved in constructive activities and help people at every opportunity,” she said.
Read more about Sue-Anne at her websites... and maybe even consider some magical entertainment at your next function, or as an activity for your Scout Group!