(Photo by Randy M. Cauthron) [Order this photo]
"Magicians have been screwing it up for 150 years. People in the audience know I don't have any magic powers," magician Nathan Staniforth openly admitted. "For those people in the audience that come to catch me and tell me that I'm a fraud: Let me be honest, I'm a fraud."
He continued, "I use the craft of deception, the craft of illusion, to give the people an experience that is real. It's the architecture of deception that will give them an experience like never before."
If you're looking for lights, music, smoke and dance-like moves during your magic show, you may be disappointed in Staniforth.
But if you're looking for your in-your-face, no frills magic designed to drop your jaw, that is what you will receive in the grand ballroom at the Clay County Regional Events Center beginning at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
The Iowa native, who grew up in Ames and now resides in Iowa City, developed an interest in magic at the age of 8.
"I didn't get serious until I was 10," Staniforth, boasting a wide grin, said. "At that time, I became obsessed with the idea of becoming a great magician."
A short time later, he was picking up paid performances in the Ames area.
"That was the nice thing about growing up in Ames, I was the only show in town as an 11-year-old. I was doing birthday parties. It wasn't high art or anything, but for an education as a performer it was a good start. If you talk to any performer, working and doing shows is the best way to learn. I did as many shows as possible," Staniforth said.
As a 16-year-old, Staniforth found himself sporting a tux, working with a fog machine, and incorporating six assistants into a glitzy Las Vegas-style show.
"I realized I wasn't going to be that tuxedo guy and feel like myself," Staniforth said, instead opting for a more casual jeans and button-up shirt approach.
While in college, the magician began working fraternity and sorority parties on campus and branched out to other area colleges.
Now he travels the country seven months a year, performing 100 shows at various venues, and spends the other five months in his studio researching, developing and perfecting his original architectural deceptions.
"Magic, when it's bad, is just about worse than anything, and magic, when it's good, is just about better than anything," Staniforth said. "The tricks are not the most amazing part of the show. The most amazing part of the show is watching people experience astonishment."
And reactions vary.
"Everybody's different. Sometimes the reaction is pure silence and you can tell you've gotten through to them. Some scream and yell," the Iowa City-based performer said.
He recalled, "One theater, in South Carolina, a group of people stood up and yelled and ran out of the theater. I never saw them again."
"That is the part of my job that is the most extraordinary for me. When it's good, it makes people forget to be cool for a moment. ... The venue will change and the audience will change. But the goal remains absolutely the same."
Staniforth wouldn't discuss any specific illusions. "Surprise is so important," he said, noting it's a very interactive show with his audience.
"Most people have seen live music, live comedy in person. But most people haven't seen a live magic show. When you see it on TV you always wonder about camera angles. Live magic is different than seeing it on TV. Magic is best when it happens right in front of you."
He continued, "If you want to laugh, go see a comedian. If you want special effects, see 'Avatar.' But there's one thing magic can give you that nothing else can: that sense of astonishment."