SingaporeMotherhood | Family Fun

February 2012

Interview with An Illusionist

If you’ve only seen Dan Sperry in his performance guise – a Rocky Horror Show-inspired figure with wayang facepaint, gravity-defying follicles and an aura of menacing glee, you’d probably find it a stretch to imagine that this self-described “anti-conjuror” once ran out of a David Copperfield magic show in tears.

Of course, Dan was only four at that time, and had not yet realised that what he was seeing onstage was a series of carefully crafted illusions meant to shock and awe the audience. In an attempt to help him understand that the acts were tricks, not real, his parents bought him a magic kit.


“That sparked my interest and made me try to make up little magic tricks with my toy army men and tape and cardboard. It kind of inspired this whole new area of creativity as a kid,” the 27-year-old magician recalls.

He’s come a long way since, doing his first show in front of a live audience at age 10, becoming an international champion in the field at 17, and performing for Hollywood actor Johnny Depp’s children at a private party.

Magic, says Dan, has also given him confidence. “It helped me get used to talking in front of people and groups. In America people don’t like having to stand in front of the class to give a report or give a speech at the office. Magic gave me ‘the gift of gab’ so that I could confidently stand in front of a group and speak.”

The offbeat illusionist, who mesmerised judges and viewers on America’s Got Talent in early 2010, is in town till 4 March, performing with four other world-class magicians in The Illusionists: Witness The Impossible. Dan takes time out from the bizarre to share how magic – and big, green, mushy boogers – can help a child bloom.

What was the first magic trick you learnt?

I don’t remember the very first trick I learnt. However, I do remember having a light bulb I could light up with my mind and also stick into my mouth and make it light up. I took that to school and freaked out the kids with it. I also had a plastic drawer that I would open and nothing would be there and then I’d close it and say magic words and then open it again and there would be a $5 note in it.

How can magic help a child?

Magic has so many levels and layers to which it can basically be therapeutic. It can help overcome a disability, bring a kid out of being shy, give them a skill nobody else has, make them have goals (such as trying to learn a new trick), discipline (such as making them have to sit and patiently practice something before they can show the trick to somebody), and much more.

What would you perform at a six-year-old’s birthday party?

I actually love doing kid’s birthday parties. They have so much energy and really enjoy the kind of magic I bring to them. I used to do kid’s shows full time – birthday parties, libraries, schools, and so on. One that they really like is when I’d pretend to pick my nose and eat my boogers over and over and over. I’d pull these big, green, mushy boogers out of my nose – too big to actually fit, and then swallow them and at the end I’d be sneezing and blowing snot (actually just green silly-string) all over the kids.

The kid wants to be a magician. Which tricks should he master first?

I would suggest getting some books that can teach them how to do simple things at home, tricks with cards, rope, coins, etc. This would give them an opportunity to have a wealth of magic they can experiment with. There are hundreds of tricks in a book so they can play with things and find something that fits their personality. Then, just practice in front of a mirror until it looks right, then go and show their family and friends.

What’s the hardest kind of magic to do?

All magic is hard. It takes lots of time and effort to put into practice and requires patience to get something just right.

How has your magic inspired a child?

About seven of eight years ago, I performed at a seven-year-old boy’s birthday party. Years later, when I was on tour in a different state and meeting with the audience in the lobby after the show, the last people there were a 14- or 15-year-old boy and his parents. They came to see my show because I had performed at his birthday party years earlier and after that he wanted to learn magic, and is now learning and performing magic at birthday parties and restaurants. It was cool to see that just like how I was inspired by a magician when I was young, he got inspired and found his way into this really cool form of entertainment.

Let the kids be amazed and inspired by Dan Sperry and his fellow illusionists. Catch them at The Illusionists: Witness The Impossible, now till 4 March 2012, at the Sands Theater, Marina Bay Sands. Free admission for children under 3 if they are seated on an adult’s lap. Family packages available.

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Interview with An Illusionist