The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    The magic man

    Chris Kemp

    Making objects disappear, moving coins across the floor without touching them and, yes, even attending classes are just a portion of sophomore Ben Seidman’s schedule as he balances his time around being a magician.

    “I’m pursuing (magic) as a career,” he said.

    Seidman, who is a comprehensive theater major, said in addition to his theater performances, he also performs two-to-three magic shows a month.

    “That number goes up as the years go on,” he said.

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    Through these performances, Seidman gained a good reputation and a nickname from students as “Magic Ben.”

    The early years of a future magician

    The 20-year-old said he found his love of magic during his youth.

    “I sold my soul when I was seven, no wait I’m just kidding it was when I was eight,” he joked. “I saw some magicians when I was young and thought that they were pretty cool and I started out with some easy magic tricks.”

    His mother, Susan Seidman, said her son’s love of magic began after he received a magic kit.

    “They’ve seen so much magic that I could snap my
    fingers, have an elephant appear in the living room and they would say, ‘That’s nice, honey.’ “

    Ben Seidman

    “He was quite young, maybe six or eight,” she said.

    At the age of nine, Seidman said he was involved in a theater production at First Stage Milwaukee when he met Tim Catlett.

    Ben’s father, Michael Seidman, said Catlett was one of the technicians for the production, and he had been doing magic for a long time.

    “In between acts, (Ben) and Tim started talking about magic,” Michael Seidman said.

    Seidman said Catlett studied techniques with him during that time.

    “He could tell that I was genuinely interested,” he said.

    At 16, Seidman began working at the Theophilus Magic Shop where he was able to experience magic firsthand.

    “I got to learn how to perform thousands of effects (that) we sold in addition to meeting all the magicians,” Seidman said. “The whole process was exciting.”

    Seidman’s mother said her son went to Edinburgh, Scotland the summer after his senior year in high school for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

    His father said his son was able to see an exclusive club for magicians, while over in Scotland.

    “Their group got inside and saw magic books from the 1800s,” he said. “(Ben) was thrilled.”

    Seidman said his parents are very supportive.

    “But they’ve seen so much magic that I could snap my fingers, have an elephant appear in the living room and they would say, ‘That’s nice, honey,’ ” he said. “They are used to me bending the waves of physics and it doesn’t faze them anymore.”

    Even though they are used to his tricks, Susan Seidman said she still is amazed he can do so many.

    “I have a feeling he does (effects) in his sleep,” she said. “He always has something up his sleeve or in his pockets.”

    Jack of all trades

    Seidman said he doesn’t like to say he performs magic tricks, but rather magic effects. “Trick” implies the people watching are being tricked, he said.

    “Hopefully they are gaining something,” Seidman said.

    He said he probably knows around 400 to 500 different magic effects, and still is learning new ones.

    “I do two different types (of magic),” he said. “Parlor and close up.”

    Close up is when the effects are smaller for a smaller group of people, he said. Parlor magic are more traditional shows in front of a larger group of people, which last around 35 to 40 minutes.

    Seidman said he prefers to do close up shows.

    “You get hired to walk around at cocktail parties or banquets and (perform) the same effects,” Seidman said. “I can do it for four hours if they need me to.”

    Seidman’s most recent performance occurred Saturday at Higherground for Little Sibs’ Weekend.

    “We had to evacuate the building because of a gas leak,” he said.

    The leak came right before the grand finale, Seidman said, and some people thought it was part of the show.

    “We went outside and half the audience stayed … we went down to the basement of Sutherland and I did some more magic,” Seidman said.

    Even a few of the little kids asked him for his autograph.

    “It reminded me why I do (magic),” Seidman said.

    The business angle

    Not only is Seidman a full-time student, but he also runs his own business called Close Up Productions.

    “I find it difficult sometimes to balance between the business aspect and artistic aspect of it,” he said.

    Seidman said he is a free agent and is booked until the beginning of next year.

    “I went to Las Vegas over spring break for the sole purpose of seeing magic and meeting magicians,” he said. “I had a couple of connections and so I got to hang out with some of the best magicians in magic.”

    Susan Seidman said he opted to go alone because “it was a serious business trip.”

    While he still does birthday parties, he said he does more adult gatherings like corporate events, banquets and weddings.

    “Lots of people have seen me do magic and I perform around the dorms every now and then or at parties,” he said.

    His business depends on word-of-mouth instead of advertising.

    “If I can do a magic effect that appears to violate the laws of nature … and someone sees that and realizes that I just did the impossible, then what’s stopping them from doing something they previously thought tough and impossible to do in their own lives,” Seidman said.

    The physical world does not change because of his magic, he said. Instead, it changes the people’s perception of what they see, he said.

    Audience feedback

    Other students on campus have seen Seidman perform.

    Junior Kat Nerge said she’s seen two of his on-campus shows.

    “Ben’s a very interesting character,” she said. “I love the fact that he always has a deck of cards in his pants.”

    Another student who has seen him perform is sophomore Kate Bero, who said Seidman is a well-rounded guy.

    “He’s a lot more than just magic,” she said. “He’s always there (for you).”

    Both Nerge and Bero said their favorite magic effect was one that occurred last year at The Cabin.

    He ripped up a $20 bill and it later appeared intact in an orange, Bero said.

    “It was absolutely amazing,” she said. “I cannot explain it.”

    “He asked for a $1,” Nerge said, which added to the crowd being mystified after only a $20 bill was offered.

    “Obviously he’s magic but that’s no secret,” she said.

    Looking into the future

    For his future, Seidman plans on looking into many different options like working on cruise ships, at the Magic Castle in Hollywood or maybe in Las Vegas, he said.

    “People react differently (to magic), but so much in this world we don’t understand and won’t in our lifetime,” Seidman said. “I understand that people want to know how everything works. We sometimes forget in our quest for knowledge how wonderful it can be not to know the secrets behind the universe.”

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