Abracadabra: Making it in magic
Monday, October 5, 2009
Posted by: Katy Roybal
By Nanette Light
William Rader isn't fooled easily.
He has thousands of magic tricks up his sleeve -- literally.
And it's no wonder. The bona fide magician, who admits to rarely ruining a trick, has an extensive library, cramming three bookcases with books priced from $19 to $200 on all things magic. One of his most precious relics is a manuscript from 1891 about an old-school parlor magician who could make tables rise off the ground.
Nevertheless, it takes a true master of the art to deceive this 22-year-old, full-time magician, who recently graduated from Oklahoma Christian University, but decided to put his degree to teach English as a second language on the back burner to pursue a life of card tricks and disappearing acts.
If business starts to lag, his backup plan is to substitute teach in Shawnee, but with teaching magic classes, performing at parties and private events and every Saturday night at Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant in Oklahoma City, he hasn't needed to set foot in a classroom.
"I'm doing all right," he said, shrugging his shoulders.
Rader's magic style doesn't include showy displays like levitating, something he said he has tried but chooses not to perform.
Instead, he prefers impromptu magic, which is less flashy, but not necessarily easier, and involves everyday items like pens, paper, dice and cards, meaning Rader is unlimited in opportunities to wow and mystify.
Just wait and see what he can do with a pen, a few dice and deck of cards.
With a wave and a flick of the wrist, the pen cap has vanished. Then it's the pen's turn.
The trick, which includes three phases of disappearing acts -- the pen cap, the pen and again the cap -- was demonstrated and taught to three students through a series of repetition and critiques by Rader at the 12th Street Recreation Center in Norman Tuesday evening.
For these students, who each dropped $16 for the lesson, mastering the trick, ranked at a medium difficulty level, wasn't easy.
"Oh crud," said 11-year-old Colton Conrad, who has practiced magic for four years to "get him past his boredom" and can levitate, eliciting laughs from himself and the group as the pen fell from behind his ear and onto the floor during the pen disappearing phase, blowing the trick.
Rader advised tucking the pen more upward to make balancing easier.
After reviewing the trick several times, Rader had each student practice in front of a mirror before performing for the group.
He paused the performances several times to pinpoint errors, such as the importance of mastering body angles to avoid arousing suspicion, to students like 13-year-old Rachel Cheng of Norman, who during her performance turned her body forward, revealing the secret of the cap's disappearance as she slipped it in her pocket.
The hardest part for the trio was remembering the trick's steps.
"Oh, I seem to have misdirected my magic," said Brandon Dewey, a friend of Rader's who tagged along to the class to learn a few of his tricks.
In these instances, when the mind lapses, many magicians, like Rader, play off the blunder, such as when Conrad dropped the pen, so it melds into part of the routine.
"In magic, the bigger motion always covers the smaller motion," said Rader, who will point to something to divert the audience's attention away from the sly maneuverings of his other hand, such as when he points to the pen behind his ear while placing the cap in his pocket.
Most of the students said they plan to return for a second 90-minute lesson. And even though none fully mastered the trick, Rader boasted this was one of his best groups, pausing to remember the difficulty teaching a crew of 6- to-8-year-olds a couple of years ago at a summer camp in Pennsylvania.
But knowing magic's secrets ruins an element of the craft's mystery, his initial draw to magic.
Rather than being mesmerized by the trick, he spends the performance calculating every move and ignoring the full product of the show, destroying the mystery behind magic.
But fooling him isn't an impossible feat, and when he is stumped, he can't help but grin.
"I love that feeling. Like, 'how did you do that?'" he said.