BROOK PARK, Ohio – “Whoa! How did you do that? A young voice asked, as Zap made half a deck of cards disappear.
He pretended to tie a rope. “Make it look natural,” he asked, regarding hiding the actual knot in your hand and then making a revelation.
He also suggested building up to the desired result.
Durante encouraged the youth to ask questions and immediately try their own hand in front of this group.
When club member Spencer Thompson picked up a deck of cards and demonstrated a rifle game with a bridge his mother had taught him, Durante responded approvingly, “You should work in a casino.”
Wizard Zap provided practical advice on what materials work best, where to get magical items, a history of those items, and the wizards who used them.
In his non-magical time, Durante was a financial planner. He resisted the allure of magic when he was young. Her father loved magic, but Durante thought, “It’s as lame as it gets.”
A performance of illusionist Doug Henning, who wore jeans and long hair, changed her mind. “He looks like me,” he said of Henning. This struck a chord with Durante who, along with his wife, Sue (known as Lady with bubbles) have been occurring since the 1970s.
For some years now, the library program has been running in sync with the school year. The program ends in May. His last club reunion is a magic show where the students present what they have practiced and learned during the school year.
While there are loyal club regulars, there is also room for new practitioners or observers at the remaining monthly meetings.
“This is a great opportunity for young people to learn from a professional magician,” said Rhonda Kiefer, children’s librarian at the Brook Park Branch. “Bob teaches them not only to do the tricks, but also to present them, to tell a story behind them.”
Although the club is meant to mentor, educate and encourage young people to learn and apply these illusions known as magic, the hall had more than a few adults in attendance. At least three families had two or more very caring children with mom and dad.
At the back of the room was a 94-year-old veteran, Matthews Bath. His cap badge was a testament to his military service in World War II. Zap later explained that Matthews was also a busy veteran artist on the Magic Tour.
“I’ve known him since I was 18,” Durante said of Matthews. “He maybe does more magic shows than anyone in Cleveland.”
The library program began when Durante approached Kiefer a few years earlier.
“We have two schools within walking distance, so we have a big crowd after school,” Kiefer said. She thought the club was a logical fit for their library.
It attracts more than local students. Margie Cools said she had “Googled” to find a magic program in Cleveland for her son, Izhaar. Brother Izraa’el was also present for the lessons.
Izhaar said that in addition to being a regular attendee of club meetings, he also studied magic on his own. He was very comfortable in the first half when, ahead of the game, Kiefer explained to a crowd waiting for him that Durante was slightly behind schedule.
“Can I have volunteers? Izhaar asked from the front of the room. He then included three club members in a successful card trick.
This is exactly the kind of atmosphere and performance that Durante strives to foster.
“It would be nice if they learned magic,” he said. “At least they can stand up in front of a group and do a presentation.”
The next club meeting is December 16. For details, contact the Brook Park branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library at 216-267-5250. For more information on Zap Entertainment and Durante’s other mentoring activities, visit their website at zaphq.com