The magic of magic

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Last summer, Steve Cohen, the self-billed millionaire's magician, performed a special show for our family in honor of my father-in-law's birthday.

We were a small crowd of 20 relatives, mostly cynical adults with a handful of elementary-age children and teenagers. None of the guests knew a magician was coming, and most of their faces became jaded and defensive when he walked into the room. Cohen looked around and smiled wide, apparently energized by the challenge of the crowd. He warmed up with a few card tricks and quickly launched into mentalist tricks, making me feel a feather he was rubbing on my sister-in-law's arm, and copying a drawing my brother-in-law had sketched in hiding. One by one, the faces around the room relaxed as adults and children alike simply accepted the presence of magic and gave in to the entertainment.

The world of children is a magical place, filled with jolly red-suited men who deliver presents, hopping bunnies bearing chocolate, and a little fairy who trades money for teeth. When magicians come to birthday parties to make pennies disappear and make scarves change color, children stare, open-mouthed, at the power of magic displayed before them.

So much of the world is a mystery, incomprehensible in their eyes; it's easy for them to accept magic at face value, to just stare in wonder instead of trying to discover the trick cynically. But someplace along the way, we lose that simple joy of believing, and whenever a really talented magician can surprise us and dazzle us with his show, we regress into that simple joy of childhood again, staring slack-jawed with wonder.

Steve Dacri has been called the king of fast magic and is a well-known magician with a family-oriented show in Las Vegas. His decades of experience practicing magic have taught him that magic appeals to everyone and transcends language barriers. "A magic trick is just an entertainment form, a way to make people forget, even for just a little while. It's a wonderful escape. Deep down inside, even the skeptics love to be fooled," he said. Another Vegas celebrity magician, Harris III, alters his show to appeal to local tastes, making it flashier in Japan and more interactive in the U.S., but he agrees that the appeal of the illusion of magic is universal.

Magic can be powerful beyond simple entertainment; it can actually be a wonderful skill for insecure and shy children. Being able to execute one simple trick well to give the illusion of magic can give a scrawny boy the attention and respect of a crowd.

Ryan Oaks has been performing magic full time at corporate events and private parties for the last 10 years, but he never expected his childhood hobby to become a career. Since the age of 5, he simply enjoyed performing illusions as a creative outlet, a way to combine his interest in music with his fascination for magic. "Magic is an incredibly positive activity that taught me confidence, creativity, and fine motor skills," he said. "It even had the added benefit of being an interactive activity."

To begin performing magic illusions, a trip to the library is in order to secure a book on magic. Local library shelves offer plenty of materials to give your child some basic principles. A good book should address the topics of patter, the steady stream of chatter a magician uses to distract his audience, and misdirection, the art of directing the audience's attention away while the magician performs a slight of hand. Most books are sure to stress the importance of practicing and never revealing your secrets.

In addition to a good book, kids don't need much beyond a deck of cards or an inexpensive kit with a handful of props. DVDs and websites also are a growing source of information for aspiring magicians. Costs can escalate quickly, however, with DVDs costing over $100, so the more free resources you can direct your child toward at first, the better. Once your child becomes confident performing in front of family and friends, he or she will greatly benefit from the companionship of other magicians either at local magic stores or online in appropriate magic networks.

Most world-famous magicians began their journey to fame and fortune thanks to the gift of a simple magic kit. Their hard work and dedication then got them the rest of the way. Regardless of whether your child is destined to become the next David Blaine, fostering an interest in magic can lead to increased confidence, poise and creativity -- skills that will be useful in any career path. And at the very least, having a magician in the family should make for entertaining evenings.

Vanessa Druckman is a freelance writer and a French foodie mother of three. She writes about cooking and parenting on her blog, Chefdruck Musings.

Online resources for aspiring magicians

Local magic resources

Useful books

  • Kids Make Magic! by Ron Burgess
  • The Book of Wizard Magic by Janice Eaton Kilby and Terry Taylor
  • Magic -- The Complete Course by Joshua Jay