Whether to impress your friends at parties or headline a show on the Las Vegas strip, it never hurts to have a bag of tricks.
“As a hobby magic is really cool—it’s a great ice breaker,” said local professional entertainer Jason Purdy.
An aunt gave him his first magic set when he was 7 years old. A family friend got him started in magic with some donated props and by teaching him some basics. Purdy practiced his skills by looking at tricks in the back of Boy Scout magazines and by offering magic shows in his classroom and later at his school talent shows.
“I remember my classmates applauding,” he said.
He remembers seeing his first magic show at a Scout banquet and another at a local school. One year later, Purdy saw his second live magic show at a local school; this one made him want to become a professional magician.
At the end of his fifth-grade year, he performed for his entire school doing an impersonation of his favorite pop star, Michael Jackson. He followed that by performing magic shows for friends and family at birthdays and holiday functions; and in 1990, he performed his first professional gig for Camp Holiday for Handicapped Children and their families.
After high school, Purdy resigned from his part-time job as a pharmacy technician and decided to follow his dream of becoming a full-time magician. Since then, he’s performed on television and for then-future U.S. President Bill Clinton as well as at venues and events around the country. These days, his events are socially distanced and sometimes virtual via Zoom. While he now performs cutting-edge illusions on stage, he will always bring out his classic magic and sleight-of-hand tricks from his arsenal as well.
Happily passing on his knowledge to new generations of magicians, Purdy has several tips for those interested in learning.
First off, he suggests joining a club. There are several for young magicians, including The Society of Young Magicians, based in the Boston area. He notes that this is a great place to start.
Bookstores like the Toadstool in Keene and the local public libraries are also a great resource for information on learning magic. In fact, according to Purdy, the Keene Public Library started building a bookshelf dedicated to it.
Some local stores, including Toy City on Key Road in Keene, sell magic kits; and there are plenty of videos on sites such as YouTube to learn what Purdy calls “simple, sleight-of-hand stuff.”
One book he considers a learning magic bible is “Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic,” a book Purdy said covers everything from the basic elements of magic to performing large-scale illusions.
When starting out, Purdy suggests using a deck of cards to learn a few tricks.
“It builds confidence and skill set others don’t have,” he said. “It also builds dexterity and coordination. It shows kids they can do something a little different, and adults will be asking how they did it.”
Working with a mentor is another good idea for a novice magician. Also, Purdy urges amateur magicians to consider a niche—meaning to find out your “why” for doing magic.
“You can be a clown or comedic magic act,” he said. “You can do it for shock value or to entertain.”
He considers himself a jack-of-all-trades magician, enjoying equally close-up “table side” magic as well as the more theatrical side, on-stage with lighting and sound.
“Everyone finds their own groove,” he said. “It’s about finding the individuality of the performer.”
Most importantly, for any young people wanting to do magic as a hobby, Purdy considers this his most important message. “Don’t learn too much, too fast,” he said.
He created a YouTube video on a simple trick novice magicians can do with the top of a Ziploc baggie you can manipulate with your thumb. He notes that a 5-year-old could easily use this to fool an audience.
“Focus on one or two simple things you can do and learn them inside and out,” he said.
While a seasoned magician like Purdy considers magic a stress reliever, he realizes it can be frustrating for someone just starting out. So, he urges young people not to give up when it becomes challenging.
“The more you practice, the better you get,” he said. “Some have dexterity right away.”
Even if you don’t master a trick, Purdy still tries to discourage people from giving up.
“If you can’t do it, it doesn’t mean you don’t have personality for it—the smile and charisma,” he said. “A magician is nothing more than an actor playing part of magician.”
Purdy is currently working on a new online magic workshop he’ll offer in individual or group sessions.
For more information, visit jasonpurdymagic.com.