Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

May 4, 2014

Magician's tricks are in his hands, not his hat

TRAVERSE CITY — The show is much about emotional misdirection as the technical kind. It’s not supposed to be all snap, pop and polish. A little cultivated boredom goes a long way, and Josh Beechraft strings this out to the frustration point.

“If they’re smokers, this is the point in the show when I drive them to want to light up,” Beechraft said. This raw, somewhat irritated, emotion opens a window, “breaking down walls,” so that when the trick comes — a flick, a flourish and poof! — it hits the audience hard. The payoff: collective amazement, relief and always, the immediate request to “do it again!”

Pulling emotional strings is a magicians’ trick Beechraft is willing to share. It’s powerful stuff, says Beechraft, 34, a hobby magician with extremely large hands.

Michael Phelps’ build, his long torso and large feet, give him an natural advantage in the water. Beechraft’s hands swallow a deck of cards in one gulp. But are “ape hands” — a genetic gift from Gramma — an advantage in a craft called “sleight” of hand?

“I don’t know what I don’t know, because I’ve never had small hands,” Beechraft said. “Some of the best magicians in the world have very small hands.”

Yet Beechraft loves “close-up tricks,” putting his hands center stage for the audiences’ unblinking eyes, glued and hopeful for a slip.

“I like to be watched under a microscope, where there’s no place to hide and still manage to shock everyone,” Beechraft said. He moves through his favorite trick slowly, visibly passing rubber bands through each other, daring people to figure it out. No one does. Mouths agape, applause.

Aptitude tests in Traverse City schools leaned heavily toward mechanics — a “skyscraper” towering over mediocrity, Beechraft said. It was a no brainer that he found himself wrenching on cars at Kurtz Car Stereo when a sales rep came in who inserted a little juggling and a few tricks into his sales pitch.

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