VIDEO COVERAGE: Magician Nate Staniforth explains magician lifestyle

Eric Smith

Not all college students can say they’ve had a magician come to their school. Well, Washburn students aren’t all students.

Nate Staniforth, a twenty-something traveling magician, came to Washburn recently to entertain the minds of those that wanted to see live magic. And he did not disappoint. He also had a lot of interesting things to say about magic. Here’s five questions with Nate Staniforth:

On what makes him different from other magicians:

“I feel like a lot of magicians see it as their job to deceive the audience. Their whole thing is to put something over on them and convince them that the magician has magic powers. I think ultimately that makes for a show that is easily forgettable and not very entertaining, because the audience knows deep-down that the magician doesn’t have magic powers. So there is this sort of incongruity in the room during the magic show in that the magician is pretending to do supernatural things and the audience is sort of suspending their disbelief but deep-down they know that it’s all tricks and they have to convince themselves that in itself was entertaining. I think it’s a lot more interesting to treat the show as fiction. No one cares Holden Caulfield isn’t a real person, in the book Catcher in the Rye. That’s not the point. They don’t go bang on [J.D.] Salinger’s door saying ‘you’re a fraud, you’re a cheat, it’s not real.’ That’s not the point. He’s using this thing that he dreamed up this character or this scenario to communicate something that he wants to communicate. That’s what magicians are doing. Or at least that’s what I’m trying to do.”

On people who don’t believe in magic:

“I have nothing to say to those people. It’s not that I have anything against them. I don’t have magic powers. There’s a lot of reasons, it’s hard world where terrible things happen and there are a lot of reasons to not believe. The only thing I can do is for the people that come to the show. And I feel like I’m good enough to show them something that they won’t forget. That’s something I can do. But people have complicated lives and I’m just a magician. I’m here to give people a good time.”

The year in the life of Nate Staniforth:

“The way my schedule is set up right now is that I tour for seven months of the year, a lot of colleges and small theaters, just sort of going around the country doing shows. The other five months are spent working on new things. Coming up with all this stuff takes a lot of reading and a lot of studying and a lot of trying shit out and hoping it works. In the summer I take four months and in the winter I take a month to just sort of try and become a better inventor or magician. And then for the rest of the year, I take it around and show people what I’ve come up with.”

On Hollywood films dealing with magic:

“I thought [the Prestige] was a really cool that it was such a successful movie. Because a lot of times, people see magicians and it doesn’t look very good. It doesn’t do the art a service. I liked very much how that movie show how it intense it is. The people who are really serious are deadly serious about magic. And they’ll do anything to be as good as they can be.

The movie that I really, really liked that came out recently is the illusionist. The cool thing about the illusionist is that all the magic that was done in the movie was actually done in that time period. They weren’t just making things up. Every illusion came from that era in magic. Like I’ve studied all these illusions for years, but actually being able to see what they looked like was just unbelievable. I can’t say enough good things about that movie.”

One magician Staniforth looks up to:

“There’s a man named David Berglas. Who I believe he’s in his late 70s or early 80s now over in England. And I’ve never met him, but I’ve studied his work for hours and hours. I feel like I know his show backwards and forwards because I’ve read everything there is to read about him. The thing about great magicians is that there willing to go to any length to make something amazing happen. And it is always inspiring to see people put the effect or put the thing they are trying to pull off or communicate. They’re willing to go to any length to make that happen. He’s just a fascinating person. He grew up in Nazi Germany in the 40s. I believe he escaped the Nazis and fled to England. Then he joined the British Intelligence Service, and as a 19-year old went back to spy on the Germans. He lived this life that reads like a James Bond novel. It’s just amazing. And he happens to be maybe the most brilliant magician we’ve had in the last 100 years. He’s quite a guy. I hope I get to meet him some day.”