OAKLAND – Magic in all its mystery literally hung in the air at a recent meeting of the Oakland Magic Circle.
12-year-old Azlan Dubin fanned a deck of cards perfectly, balancing individual cards above and below the deck.
“I’ve been doing cardistry for a year,” he said, continuing the mesmerizing shuffle. “When I arrived here two and a half years ago, Kim Silverman gave me my first deck of cards. I have them with me tonight.
In a final swing, Dubin tossed another card that seemed to come from behind his back, spinning it up the deck.
Gathering monthly since 1925, the club is the oldest and oldest independent magic club west of the Mississippi, according to outgoing club president Nathaniel Segal. The members first met at each other’s homes, then at the Lake Merritt Boathouse and now at Bjornson Hall on MacArthur Boulevard near Fruitvale Avenue – every first Tuesday in over 50 years.
Club secretary Byron Walker remembers attending club meetings as a teenager in 1950.
“I guess you could say that I am both the oldest member and the oldest member,” he said. He credits the club’s longevity to the venue’s full kitchen, stage, and active members. He said the annual club competitions attracted applicants from nine clubs from Sacramento to Monterey.
Segal, known professionally as Magical Nathaniel, a 23-year-old UC Berkeley graduate and full-time magician, had nabbed highly sought-after magician and storyteller Kim Silverman for the reunion. Club members said they liked to think of Silverman as the inspiration for the wizard in the Harry Potter series. Australian by birth and PhD from Cambridge, Silverman is a senior researcher for Apple Computers.
Shortly after 8 p.m., at the right time, Magical Nathaniel announced Silverman’s entry. His flowing silver hair and full beard paired perfectly with loose white clothes. Rather than touting the power of the iPhone as a popular source of gadgets – a technology that his research into the spoken language Apple Computers continues to refine – he urged fellow magicians to simplify their routines and approach their narratives with intention. He encouraged them to reject the word trick, “with its associations of cheap, mean, and dirty” and a “term that denigrates art.”
“Magic is not about tricks,” he said, jingling a set of brass rings, “magic is about experiencing mystery,” he continued, dragging one ring seamlessly into another.
“Magic teaches us that things that seem impossible,” he said, adding yet a third ring, “that things that are separate can be joined and joined.”
As a fourth link formed a chain hanging from its side, he concluded, “No matter how lonely we feel, we are all part of one chain of human existence. We’re all in the same boat. “
Over the next two hours, Silverman unveiled a master of magic repertoire. He emphasized the importance of telling stories that touch people’s lives.
He was inspired by the experiences of spectators. A teenager’s memory of close camaraderie among friends, for example, became associated with the King of Clubs, the card Silverman coaxed him to pull from a game. A man’s wedding ring served as a ring in a rope effect – the term Silverman used instead of gimmick – that taught that fleeting anxiety knots in life really are opportunities to loosen and learn how to make them go away.
“Success in magic,” said Silverman, “doesn’t depend on how many people laugh, but how many people cry. The subtext of magic is that things might not be as they appear. , and that means there is hope, and it’s an idea worth sharing.
Long after the folding chairs were put away, Silverman lingered for a while with young Dubin; the master magician and his young sidekick discussing the technique and, more importantly, the experience of creating magic.
The Oakland Magic Circle meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Bjornson Hall, 2258 MacArthur Blvd. Magicians, magic enthusiasts and the curious are always welcome. The February 6 reunion stars Kayla Drescher, who appeared on Penn and Teller’s “Fool Us” TV show. Dinner starts at 7 pm; the show starts at 8:30 p.m. ($ 20 for young people) for dinner and the show. Only display tickets available at the door ($ 20). Tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3223908 or dial 800-838-3006. The March meeting will highlight Women in Magic.