Experience the Magic

September 2019

Illusion. Mentalism. Sleight of Hand. Spellbinding. All terms for what Mackinley Oliver prefers to call magic.
“If you call it an illusion, you’re reminding people it’s not true,” says Oliver. “But if you call it magic, you are suggesting something deeper than theatre or clever performance. You are creating wonder and suspending the natural disbelief.”

Oliver has been working on his magical skill set since the age of 16, and now, he’s selling out performances all over town. I sat down with him over a cup of coffee to discuss his philosophy on performance, belief, and the creative power of imagination.

“Magic is a really unique type of entertainment,” he says. “In this information age, we can Google anything, but deep down, we all love a good secret. There’s something healthy about marveling at the inexplicable, and believing in the incredible. It brings a bit of joy into our lives.”

This joy was evident in February when Oliver organized a magic show at the Finlandia Club. To his surprise, it was a sell-out crowd and he’s now arranged a follow-up double header for November. Oliver loves working an audience, and in fact, audience participation is key to his performances. Because of this, he’s the first to note that no two experiences will be the same.

“Some magicians have this idea they can control situations,” he says with a smile. “But the more I perform, the more I realize that’s just not true. You can direct or misdirect but people are unique, and each person reacts differently. People really want to be a part of the experience though, and when I do it right, it gives credibility to the show. A person is a person, not a prop. For my shows, I don’t need special effects, I just need people!”

It’s said that in magic, some effects are required to ‘defeat the bull of logic’, while others ‘ride away on the winged horse of imagination.’ In other words, illusions cry for a solution, whereas magic calls people to imagine. With Oliver, each show is an attempt to draw the audience deeper and to weave more magic into each spell.

“I strive for depth in performances,” he says earnestly. “To be simple and deep at the same time. If I have someone ‘pick a card then I find it’ is simple, but not terribly deep. If I have someone just think of a card, however, and then I pick it, it becomes something deeper. When you’re dealing with thoughts, you get into mentalism, and I like taking what I’ve learned in mentalism and applying it to classic magic. It’s creating the feeling that something as simple as a card trick is more than what it is. What people believe, or want to believe, is far more incredible.”

I believe it. In our cynical, critical Google world, there’s something to be said for wonder and imagination. I asked him if he ever felt the pressure to prove himself, or to thwart a skeptical audience.

“There’s a funny thing with magic,” he says. “At first, they’re judging me, evaluating me, figuring out if they want to see any more, and sometimes, people want to see a magician screw up. I play on that in my shows. It creates drama, conflict, tension, and pulls them into my flow. It’s like judo – you learn to go with the flow rather than have everything completely arranged. I let the audience take the reins.”

Self-taught, Oliver has worked on his craft for 10 years now, learning vicariously from masters like David Blaine via books and instructional video. He’s also learned skills by trial and error, and much practice on eager audiences. And while he loves giving staged shows, he thrives on smaller, more interactive engagements.

“I strive for small parties and close up magic,” he says with a smile. “When I’m working for a group of friends or coworkers, there is no barrier. I’m right there. I try to take that style of street magic to the stage. With David Blaine and his shows, the camera follows him around and films the audience reactions. Those reactions are honestly as magical as the tricks themselves.”
Hence Oliver’s slogan. He invites you to not only See the Magic, but in participating, to BE the Magic as well.

To become a part of Mackinley Oliver’s brand of street magic, make sure you get good seats for his next performances, Nov 8/9, 2019, at the Finlandia Club. Or to book him for a party or corporate event, check out his website at www.mackinleyoliver.com or follow him on Facebook at Mackinley Oliver: Experience the Magic.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

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