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Master Magician

He’s made the Statue of Liberty disappear, walked through the Great Wall of China and stood inside the core of a fire tornado. He’s been knighted with the Chevalier of Arts & Letters by the French government, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and has been named a living legend by the U.S. Library of Congress.

Illusionist David Copperfield has been practicing magic since the age of nine, performing in front of audiences since he was 12. The New Jersey native mastered the art so quickly that he began teaching the profession at New York University when he was 16. Since then he has gone on to become one of the world’s most successful illusionists with television specials, Emmy awards, and sold-out international live shows.

He comes to Calgary from October 16 to 17 with his latest show, An Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion. The night focuses on turning dreams (and a few nightmares) into reality with acts like family reunions that take place instantly across the world, sleight-of-hands with a deadly black African scorpion, and tips for predicting winning lottery numbers. He’ll also perform one of his most requested tricks—”Thirteen”—where 13 random audience members disappear, only to reappear in surprising places.

We spoke with him about his latest act, tricks going awry, and how he made the Statue of Liberty disappear.What can audience members expect with this show?
From mind-reading deadly scorpions to someone being transported across the globe to a distant tropical island for a very special reunion—the audience will find themselves quite entertained!

What trick in this show will amaze the audience the most?
When 13 randomly selected audience members vanish from the stage and go to their “special place”—that is something that jolts everyone into a state of awe.

What are you looking forward to most about coming to Calgary?
You live in such a spectacular city nestled at the foot of the Rockies! For me, it’s always an adventure and a special treat to have everyone in Canada be so appreciative.

What trick have you seen another magician do that you couldn’t figure out?
Part of the price you pay for being a magician is knowing, right off the bat, the methods behind what you see others do on stage. It takes away some of the wonder, but I get that when I see the works of a Spielberg or Lucas on the big screen in a movie theatre—then I feel like a little kid again, right beside everyone else.

What is your all-time favourite act to perform?
I would have to say my favourite and hardest illusion is “Flying,” which took me seven years to create. [It’s not in the current show]. I try to have my illusions move people emotionally, and I believe this one takes them back to another time and place, to their youth, when dreams of flight are a common occurrence.

You’re also known for having made the Statue of Liberty disappear. How did you do that?
Very carefully! After all, it’s a national monument!

What is the worst thing that has gone wrong with one of your tricks? How did you recover?
I know I have done some wild things over the years, from levitating over the Grand Canyon and tumbling over Niagara Falls, to being suspended from a burning rope high over fiery steel spikes in a straight jacket. Sometimes looking back over my career I go, “what were you thinking?!” I am constantly challenging myself and with that goes some degree of risk.

On occasion, the tricks that don’t seem dangerous at all are the ones that harm you. I remember one time I was performing what should have been a simple rope trick, using a very sharp pair of scissors. I held the rope up for the audience to see and proceeded to cut it like I had a thousand times, except this time I accidentally sliced off the tip of my finger. I said to the audience, “Excuse me for a moment, I just sliced the end of my finger off,” and exited stage left. They laughed hysterically, thinking it was a part of the show, while I headed to the nearest emergency room for stitches! But I did come back to finish the show.

You’ve been practicing magic since you were a child. What motivates you to continue performing and coming up with new tricks?
I perform over 500 shows a year, sometimes two, three or four shows per day on the weekend, so I had better love what I do. The art of magic has been my passion and drive since I was nine, and I could not imagine doing anything else. I have travelled to countries all over the world and magic transcends all the language barriers. How lucky for me that I can communicate with so many people on planet Earth, doing what I love?

In this digital age, why are audiences still attracted to illusion and magic?
Magic is the oldest of all the performing arts, practiced through the time of King Arthur’s Court, the ancient pharaohs of Egypt and beyond. I think the art of magic will endure no matter what technology brings our way. It’s an opportunity to suspend your disbelief and be emotionally transported to another place and time.

Why is it important for magicians to keep the method behind their acts a secret?
By the very nature of the art magicians tend to be a secretive group. Even with my own crew, often times only a portion of the actual illusion is revealed to different people and only then on a “need to know basis.” It’s all about wonder and thrill, once you lose that…the dream fades away. I get my thrill from the audience’s reactions. Every night the show is different for me because there are new faces and new emotions that I see. Once you stop believing, the amazement is gone.

Do you believe in magic?
If by “magic” you mean the sense of child-like wonder and awe that the art of magic brings to people across the planet, spanning many millenia—then yes—most certainly!—Laura Pellerine

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