In a new age of multimedia, Nate Staniforth thinks about what a magician offers that an audience cannot find anywhere else. His answer to that is, “Magic has become a way to share the experience of wonder,” Staniforth said. “Wonder is this curious fusion between fear and joy. I became intoxicated with that experience.”
Staniforth has developed a streamlined performance that is not crowded out by scripted jokes, alluring spectacle, or inauthentic showmanship. Instead, he plays to the imagination and intelligence of his audiences.
Staniforth will bring his personal brand of magic to the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Growing up in Ames, he “loved the idea of doing things that looked impossible.” As a theater student studying stagecraft at the University of Iowa, he quickly realized that “Iowa City was an incredible place to learn to be a magician.”
The space above the Deadwood used to house Public Space One, with its art gallery and performance space. Staniforth performed there weekly, accumulating a loyal fan base.
Staniforth resides in Iowa City. His performance at the Englert lies in the middle of an expansive nationwide tour.
Since his years at UI, he has compiled a wealth of accomplishments that include nationwide tours, lecturing at the prestigious Oxford Union, a TEDx Talks appearance, hosting Discovery Channel’s hit series “Breaking Magic,” and traveling to rural India to infiltrate a clan of street musicians.
He documents these experiences in his new memoir, Here is Real Magic: A Magician’s Search for Wonder in the Modern World. The New York Times called it, “a vivid, deeply compelling, startlingly personal account of life on the far side of the illusion.”
A major component of the memoir is Staniforth reflecting on his trip to India. His goal was to interact with a breadth of street magicians. However, the trip turned out to be much more enlightening.
Staniforth said he discovered something he frantically needed to share. When he came home, he started writing the memoir, which was about rediscovering his passion for magic. After around four official drafts and 25 unofficial drafts, Staniforth placed a decade’s worth of experiences into one book.
“For the first time in my career, I worried that magic tricks were insufficient in saying what I wanted to say,” Staniforth said. “I became taken by the pliability of language. Magic is a really great way to say one thing, so the rewarding part of taking on writing as a discipline was a broadening of subject.”
When asked about his future endeavors, Staniforth said he continues to push himself out of his comfort zone for the sake of remaining innovative. He refuses to settle on one art form, saying, “When in doubt, throw out the plan, and dream it all up again.”
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Englert, 221 E. Washington