“In the hustle of daily living it’s easy to forget how everything looked before it became ordinary,” Nate Staniforth once said.
When we picture a magic show, most of us see disappearing white rabbits and flying decks of cards. We think of magicians as performers, who use deception and tricks to make us believe the impossible has happened. As children, a small coin pulled out of our ear could make us firm believers. These small but wondrous anomalies of nature could transport us into an imaginary world where anything was possible and nothing seemed ordinary.
Nate Staniforth — the author of “Here is Real Magic,” a memoir about his journey through the ups and downs of his career as a professional magician — has taken it upon himself to change our notion of magicians as conniving performers and of magic itself. As an artist, he believes in working with the audience to develop mutual trust, and to blur the line between ordinary and extraordinary for every person who attends one of his shows. During our interview, Staniforth spoke of these core beliefs about the power of magic and the difficulty of making adults believe in simple, fantastic rarities.
More than just an interview to sell his show, Staniforth talked about his passion for magic and wonder. He believes himself to be an artist.
“The craft of fiction (is) to give people an experience that isn’t fantasy, but is grounded in reality: Like what it means to be a human being,” Staniforth said.
He described his craft not as conniving or deceiving, but as a way of giving the audience the opportunity to experience something extraordinary. He explained it to me as such:
“I assume you are sitting in front of a computer right now,” Staniforth said. “Imagine that you’re typing, and then your computer just disappears. It would challenge everything you know about the world.”
His show is based on challenging our daily experiences and exploring our world rather than just accepting things for how they are. According to Staniforth, “You can find the experience of magic anywhere if you look for it, if you are paying attention.”
At first, I was weary of his words. Everything he said sounded oddly profound and therefore scripted. However, after hanging up the phone, I realized that I had been talking to the author of “Here is Real Magic,” and that was extraordinary and unexpected, a magical experience, if I may.
Staniforth emphasized the fact that making adults see everyday life as extraordinary was difficult. Even as students, the routines we surround ourselves in make it so hard for us to stop and appreciate the beauty and singularity of this time in our lives. There was something else about Staniforth’s book that resonated with me and my current dilemmas as a college student. He started a career as a professional magician and quickly got burned out, so he dropped everything and traveled to India in search for real magic.
This too sounds a bit scripted and cliché, but then I realized that our search for magic doesn’t have to be as extreme as traveling to India. It could be something as simple as taking an afternoon to take a bath, re-reading a favorite book or take a stroll down the streets of Ann Arbor. Our lives move quickly and take unexpected turns, but there is always room for a little magic.
Staniforth is currently on his national book tour, and he is coming to Ann Arbor. When I asked him what the audience could expect of his show, he said:
“I can’t really promise them anything other than it will be one of the strangest nights they’ve ever had.”
If you’re looking forward to being amazed, simply like the idea of a magic show or don’t yet have weekend plans, Nate Staniforth will be at Literati on Saturday, Jan. 27.