Dan Sperry, the Anti-Conjuror, has traveled around the country, pushing audiences outside of their comfort zones with his unbelievable magic routines.
This week, Dan (below) will perform at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk with seven other world renowned magicians in “The Illusionists ™ Live From Broadway,” which the Chicago Daily Herald calls, “mind-blowing.”
AltDaily: Was there a certain event that sparked your love for magic?
Dan Sperry: When I was a young boy, my grandparents took me to see David Copperfield. I was 4 or 5 and didn’t know what this was about, I was just excited to stay out past bedtime. I had seen magicians before, like at a school assembly, but it didn’t effect me as much.
When we got to David Copperfield, I had no idea magic could be so theatrical. He opened his show with “The Death Saw” where he has to get out before he is cut in half. It looks like the blade falls too early and I thought he was dead. I was so upset that I had a spastic episode. We had to go to the lobby so my grandparents could try to calm me down, and we had to leave the show.
That experience got me curious about magic. I started getting magic kits for Christmas and my birthday and I recall being told “remember, it’s just an illusion.”
Do you consider yourself a creative person?
I don’t know. That could mean anything.
Would you consider magic a creative craft?
No, but those that are creative excel much better in it.
So, considering your touring with The Illusionists and performing across the country, I’m thinking you’re probably one of these creative magicians. As a creative person, how do you keep the magic alive for yourself?
Ah, I see what you did there. I’m serious about it but I don’t take myself too seriously. You have to walk a fine line with magic, especially nowadays. You can only get away with some stuff. There’s a fine line between amazing and cheesey. You have to be careful about that. Not taking yourself too seriously keeps you from being cheesey.
To stay inspired, I go to Disneyland and Disney World as much as I can. There, I can live in a imaginary world and I can reset myself. I definitely have a bit of a Peter Pan complex. Going to Disney lets me live in that world where I don’t have to grow up.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or things you do to prep before hitting the stage?
Yeah, usually I eat a pack of Twizzlers or drink some coffee, and listen the Misfits.
How do you come up with new illusions?
That’s a harder one to answer. It’s more… the best way to answer is that it’s an inspirational situation. What will I see that inspired me? Getting bored helps.
I get bored with what I do. I have to remind myself that audiences are seeing this stuff for the first time. There are bits I’ve been doing forever, I want to keep evolving them. It’s like a singer has a song, right? They go out and sing it a thousand times, they they don’t tweak the lyrics– I do. I’m constantly tweaking and changing mine to make them better. I don’t let them sit still on stuff for too long, they’re always changing.
The other thing I do is think of what I think would be amazing or weird or strange and try it- sink or swim style. I listen to how the audience reacts; sometimes they make up a joke that isn’t there, sometimes you turn to left instead of right and it somehow makes it better. I listen to their reaction like they’re a focus group and go from there.
Have you ever thought about quitting? Why didn’t you?
Yeah, I have. I don’t know, this sounds like “have you ever thought about cheating on your girlfriend?”
You mean, it’s natural to think about but you wouldn’t do it?
Yeah, exactly. I have thought about it a few times but then it’s like, it’s a level thing. It’s like ladder climbing. I think once maybe I thought of quitting completely. There have been other times I’ve thought about receding back to a lower rung on the ladder–like birthdays and school assemblies–there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s fun! I could do that all week then on the weekend go be goth-y and weird. I kind of liked that.
I’m also aware that I’ll make it to like 50 or 60- I don’t know if I’ll have work available looking how I like to look, playing pretend for real life work. Magic lets me live in Neverland everyday. I might have to have an exit strategy at some point. I’ll probably never fully quit, but I might have to have a graceful exit.
Why did you climb to the next rung instead of “dropping a level”?
This is gonna sound stereotypical but, you only live once. You only get one shot to try anything. It might suck right now on the business side of show business but the show side is still fun. I decided to see how much further I can take it.
What would you tell someone just starting out with magic? Any words of wisdom to share?
Practice a lot. Practice won’t make you perfect but it will make you better.
Magic is a really strong type of performance that can be very gift-y. It’s about what you give to the audience. You give them your performance; it can be a really strong experience for them. Make it about them and not you. Your performance should be like a grenade: throw it, run away a safe distance, and watch them experience it.
“The Illusionists ™ Live From Broadway ™” at Chrysler Hall
Show Dates & Times
Friday, Oct 16, 2015 8:00 PM
Saturday, Oct 17, 2015 2:00 PM
Saturday, Oct 17, 2015 8:00 PM
Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 1:00 PM
Sunday, Oct 18, 2015 6:30 PM
Tickets are on sale now and range from $43 – $78 plus applicable fees. Tickets can be purchased at the Scope Arena Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at Ticketmaster.com or by phone at 1-800-745-3000. For more information, visit www.sevenvenues.com.