The world’s greatest sleight-of-hand artist, Apollo Robbins, once asked, “If you could control somebody’s attention, what would you do with it?”
One might be able to see why a magician would potentially want to control the attention of his or her spectators; it’s part of our job to take people’s perception and use it against them. I am a magician by trade and a storyteller by heart. To me, magic is simply telling a fictional story and bringing it to life in front of your eyes. Magic is proof that people can accomplish what is perceived to be impossible.
However, to the magician, magic is so much more than deceiving others. Magic is an art, an expression of our skills and imagination, that we present to our audiences. It is a method of communication, a way to entertain and associate ourselves with our peers. It’s unique. It takes dedication to learn to pull off defiant acts of magic, such as flouting physics and bending flames. All that work is finally worth it when you find the perfect crowd, see their expressions of awe, and earn their admiration.
One of my most memorable experiences took place about a year ago, when I went on a Caribbean cruise with my family over spring break. Walking through the ship’s corridors and losing my way more than once, I finally found my cabin. Wasting no time, I immediately moved to unpack. At the very bottom of my luggage I found exactly what I was looking for.
I cleared off the desk to make room, then began to lay out my arsenal: a few paper clips and rubber bands, a bottle of rubber cement, more than a few decks of cards, and a small box with an iron ring bearing the symbol of the shattered spade as its crest. The ring was purely aesthetic, but it made people think, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want.
After dinner that night, I began to look for activities to do on the cruise. I found that the ship had a teenage lounge. Eager to meet new people and perform, I looped around the ship with my deck of cards and found the room. A woman greeted me and asked for ship ID to prove I was under 18. After playing a few games of cards, we decided to go around the room and introduce ourselves. When it was my turn, I told them my name, that I was from New York, and that I was a magician. The question came instantly: “Can you show us a magic trick?”
I’ve always found a performance to be so much better and more immersive when the audience is directly in front of you — where there’s no room to hide anything.
I started with a card trick. Every time someone snapped their fingers, their card reemerged at the top of the deck. Then we played a few other games until I decided to leave.
The next few days were fantastic.
The impression that I made on the crowd that night was vivid. Everywhere I went, the people that I had met knew my name. They wanted to introduce me to their family and friends so I could show them more magic. A few even asked for my autograph on cards. It was as if I were a small celebrity to them.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many new people because of my art. For the rest of the trip some of my new friends and I would stay up late into the night; we just hung around the back of the boat, talking, sharing stories, and having a great time. This would be the first of many fun and rewarding experiences with magic. From this, I’ve come to truly appreciate everything that magic can provide.
Magic is a way to meet and communicate with people. It’s a unique skill that can build up your confidence, because to be truly successful, you need charisma to back up your act. All the effort is worth it because of the relationships you create and the smiles and laughter from the audience that leave you amazed.
Khoi Bui is a 17-year-old senior at Williamsville North High School in Buffalo, New York. Other than magic, he is interested in technology, drama, and freerunning. He dedicates the rest of his time to his friends.
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