Magic you can believe in

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Isaac Hamlet, [email protected]

The word “magician” conjures the image of a man draped in a colored cape, sporting a sequined shirt or wearing leather pants.
Nate Staniforth prefers to do his shows in jeans and a button-up.

Staniforth will appear at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday as part of family weekend. The University of Iowa graduate will perform a magic show to close his current tour.

“Obviously, nobody believes Nate has magic powers,” said David Gould, an Obermann Center Public Scholar and an adjunct lecturer at the University of Iowa. “There are no smoke and mirrors of tight leather pants either. Nate’s objective is simply to amaze his audience.”

While attending UI, Staniforth performed a weekly magic show and often performed for fraternities and sororities. He’s gone on to tour the country and host the Discovery Channel show “Breaking Magic.”

Staniforth tackles magic with a “no-frills” approach. He doesn’t bog down himself or the audience with superfluous spectacle or frivolous flair. Instead, he works only with what his show requires.

“At any magic show there’s a tension,” Staniforth said. “The audience is torn between an inherent fascination with the unknown and a desire to figure everything out. People can get entertainment anywhere, but magic shows can give them mystery and wonder, and I want to bring those feelings back in my performance. The best way to get wonder is to be honest with the audience — this is all just an illusion, but it’s going to astonish you.”

Kaitlyn Chizek, the special events director for the Campus Activity Board, witnessed Staniforth’s show in 2012 as a student in Gould’s Life Design course and has worked to organize his upcoming visit.

“I remember him doing a trick where he swallows needles and a thread and pulls them back out of his mouth, and they’re threaded,” she said. “My mind was just blown; it was incredible. It was just one of those moments of childlike wonder.”

Gould’s Life Design course brings in people who have pursued nontraditional careers to speak to students. Gould became aware of Staniforth while in graduate school, so years later, when he was looking for speakers for his class, he thought of the magician.

“Very early on [Staniforth] knew what he wanted to do, and used his time as a student at the University of Iowa to hone his craft,” Gould said. “The result is an upcoming book with a major publisher, a television series on Discovery Channel, and packed stadiums around the world.”

The Englert and Staniforth have a history together. When he performed there in 2006, he attracted a record attendance for the theater. During that first show, at 23 years old, Staniforth spent his life savings on a film crew to document the show. After the video hit YouTube, he was able to book a full tour.

“It seems like every time I perform at the Englert Theater, something monumental changes in my life,” Staniforth said. “The next time I played the Englert, we filmed the show again, and it led to the Discovery Channel TV series. I’m not sure what to expect on Friday.”

What: Nate Staniforth Magic Show
Where: Englert, 221 E. Washington
When: 6:30 & 8:30 p.m. Friday

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