Shift Switch: Magician's assistant
For the levitation, we picked a purple dress with a silver scarf with spider webs on it. I was hoping for something with sequins, but it was comfortable and worked well with the illusion. We also picked out a pair of black heels.
David reminded me that for the show I would need to wear stage makeup and a lot of it. I have a fair share of performance experience, so I knew what to do and really caked it on before the show. The real assistants sometimes wear wigs and fake eyelashes, but I didn't go quite that far. Maybe next time.
Lights, camera, magic!
The following Sunday, on the stage at Wisconsin Lutheran College, I performed the levitation act with David. It went really well. Flawlessly, actually.
The act starts with me standing on a platform, resting on two upside down brooms almost as if they are crutches. David puts me in a light sleep state. Then, he removes one of the brooms, takes the stool from beneath my feet and lifts my legs so my body -- now only propped against one of the brooms -- is suspended at a 45-degree angle. He adjusts my legs again and pushes them even higher, so I am at a 90-degree angle, with my legs parallel to the floor and my body resting on a mere broom top for support.
Even though I know exactly what's happening, the feeling of being suspended in mid air is exhilarating.
My kids, who were in the audience, found it amazing. This was a relief to me because I was slightly concerned they would find it scary. My family and friends who witnessed the levitation said they have no idea how we pulled off the illusion. According to David, this is a compliment to their intelligence. He says it is easier to fool a smart person than a not-so-smart person.
"You can't fool a dumb group. Give me a group from Mensa any day and I will fool them," he says.
According to David, intelligent adults' brains -- because they move at a faster pace -- are more willing to presume how a trick works before it happens. A less intelligent person or a child is slower at processing the information and less likely to draw assumptions, which actually makes the trick more difficult to pull off.
It was fascinating for me to observe the real performance of "Wonders of Magic" after learning so much about the behind-the-scenes stuff. David, who dresses in a classic magician's tuxedo for his performances, is a natural on stage and clearly enjoys himself.
The show is about 75 minutes long, without an intermission. During the performance, David includes magic tricks from around the world. Also, he does tributes to the great Harry Houdini, who was born in 1874 in Appleton, and does a version of his famous act that involves a chained woman climbing into a bag, which is tied shut and locked inside a box. Seconds later, she magically reappears on top of the box, unchained.
David's real assistants, Maureen Murphy Dornemann and Kimberly Rodriguez, were extremely nice to me and very helpful back stage. They helped me dress and went over the details of the act with me one last time before I performed it.
Maureen has assisted David since 1989, when she was a theater major at UW-Eau Claire. She says she loves creating a new character for each show, but sometimes the venues can be a challenge.
"We perform in just about any sort of facility, from a school cafeteria with little to no backstage area for quick changes and preparation to fully-equipped theaters," says Dornemann. "But we always make it work."
I can't say I'm going to leave my writing career for the glamorous world of magic, but thanks to my experience assisting David, I have a great story to tell for the rest of my life.
And on that note, I'm going to disappear now. Poof.
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Excellent article only wish we had seen a video of you doing your dream illusion the sawing.
Very interesting, must have been an unbelievable experience. But where is the video of you being sawed in half? Did that happen? It all seems amazing!
"David decided that, although I am a little on the tall side, I would attempt to perform with him onstage the two most famous tricks: the sawing in halves and the levitation." "Illusion" Michael. Tricks are something a whore does for money....or cocaine. Sorry, I'm contractually obligated to quote Arrested Development anytime I see illusions referred to as tricks.
How fortunate the you have succeeded in working on your "bucket list". Great article and I am very impressed with your sense of adventure!
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