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Magic, Emotion, and Graduation

This week I will be performing at one of my longest-running gigs: an all-night graduation party for a high school where I used to teach. I’ll be doing close-up magic for about three hours and then a stage show at (gulp!) 4:00 AM. It’s a tiring, physically taxing gig, but it also may be my favorite.

The reaction to my magic by the new high-school graduates at this gig always seems to be much more enthusiastic and ebullient than at any other performance I’ve ever done. Over the years I think I have figured out why.

Magic, when it isn’t presented as a puzzle to be solved, appeals to the subconscious “dream” mind. When it works, it packs an emotional punch.

Graduation from high school is one of the most emotionally fraught moments in anyone’s life. For some kids it means an impending scary venture out into a strange world away from childhood friends and parents. For others it’s a liberation from the shackles and baggage of one’s home town, an exhilarating leap into independence. (That last version is what my own graduation was like decades ago.)

Because the emotions of these young people are right one the surface, right at their fingertips, their reactions to my illusions are filled with all the mixed feelings of the moment.

It’s a special night for these 17- and 18-year-olds, and I’m always thrilled to be a part of it. It reminds me of my own day of liberation from childhood all those years ago.


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