Center Presents: Magician David Williamson
The Tarkington // Jan. 22
Sat., Jan. 22–2 p.m. ET
Sat., Jan. 22–8 p.m. ET
A born showman and accomplished sleight-of-hand artist, David Williamson dazzles audiences with a blend of heart-stopping magic and sidesplitting hilarity. He has been featured on ABC’s “Champions of Magic,” where he appeared with Princess Stephanie as he performed his miracles at various locations in and around Monaco. Williamson has also co-starred in several top-rated prime-time network specials, including CBS’ “Magicians’ Favorite Magicians,” NBC’s “Houdini: Unlocking His Mysteries” and NBC’s “World’s Greatest Magic III.” He was seen recently on The CW’s “Masters of Illusion” TV series as well as “America’s Got Talent.”
Williamson has developed TV shows for Walt Disney Productions and ABC, as well as consulting on TV specials for illusionists David Copperfield and David Blaine. His bestselling magic book, “Williamson’s Wonders,” has been translated into three languages.
Williamson is also featured as the Ringmaster in the exciting show “Circus 1903” currently touring the world and returning to the UK for a holiday tour. He is also a frequent favorite Guest Entertainer on Disney Cruise Lines.
Recently, Williamson was honored with the Performance Fellowship by the Academy of Magical Arts and Sciences at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. In 2017, Williamson was named The Magic Castle’s Magician of the Year. He was also recently awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership by the UK’s Magic Circle, the world’s premier magical society.
Tickets are on sale now at thecenterpresents.org.
Janelle Morrison: I believe life is about experiences. I think it’s a great time to be reminded of the wonderment and laughter we enjoyed as children and experience those again as adults. That’s where live shows and entertainers like you come in.
David Williamson: That’s the message I’ve been giving interviews for the circus that we’re taking back to London [this holiday season] after a year off. The message is “circus” is community and “circus” is a celebration of life, so it’s a positive message.
JM: I’d like to take a stroll down memory lane and ask you to walk me through the early days of your magic career.
Williamson: As a kid, I was fascinated with magic, like most kids are. I got a magic set when I was 8 years old. When everybody else let go of the magic tricks and moved on to football or other pursuits in life, I never let [magic] go.
We had a school magician, Walter Shepard, who was a wonderful magician in the Dayton area who performed for all the elementary schools and had a wonderful school show. It was fantastic. He played the part. He had a goatee and a painted van with doves and hats on it. He was a “professional” magician. My teacher let me go backstage with Shepard the Magician, and I helped carry his props out to his painted van. I felt like I was in the “club,” and magic has been a lifelong passion ever since.
In fourth grade, we had a reader about Harry Houdini. I was fascinated with Houdini. He was a real-life superhero that captured the imagination of any kid. I learned a little sleight-of-hand trick, and I learned it pretty well. My teacher said, “David, you did that pretty well and maybe someday, you’ll be a magician,” and that pathway was burnt into my brain at that point.
JM: I read that another book, “The Amateur Magician’s Handbook,” also inspired you to become a magician. Do you still have a copy of that?
Williamson: I have several copies! I give them away to young [aspiring] magicians and kids that I give lessons to. I pick copies up whenever I can find a second-hand edition or paperback version.
It’s a fantastic book that gives you the basics of sleight-of-hand tricks. There are chapters on coin magic and sleight-of-hand with balls, rings and handkerchiefs.
JM: In addition to Houdini, who were some of your heroes in magic growing up?
Williamson: My heroes in magic weren’t the TV magicians necessarily. I appreciated them and always got excited when they were on TV. Mark Wilson had a show in the ’70s called the “Magic Circus,” and there were magicians like Harry Blackstone and David Copperfield, but my heroes are the blue-collar magicians who do it for a living and are grinding out shows at all kinds of venues. These are the sleight-of-hand guys who are inventors and tinkerers, and on top of that, they are skilled with their hands and have that theatrical flair you have to have.
You have to be many things to be a good magician and not just have one skill. You have to be an inventor, tinkerer, a bit of a scientist and artist and a lot of a showman. You have to make the unreal real for the audiences, and a lot of magicians forget that in their careers—they just want to be a personality or want to be clever.
JM: After you return to the U.S. and arrive in Carmel this January, what can we expect at your show at The Tarkington?
Williamson: My standard thing is to expect the unexpected. It’s not going to be your father’s magic show. We’re going to have fun, and it’s going to be a celebration. It’s pure fun and interaction, and it’s going to be buoyant! I want to have a light, fun, magical, jaw-dropping, hilarious evening. I am going to use spectators from the audience. Everybody is going to participate from their seats on some of the things, but it’s going to be old-school magic and a lot of fun.
I’m building the show especially for this event. It’s the first theater show that I’ve done since the pandemic began so I’m starting from scratch and building a special performance, so this will be fun for me as well.
JM: I like to ask my interviewees what organizations or nonprofits they support and would like to plug?
Williamson: At the local level, for many years, I’ve produced shows in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and we have a nonprofit horse-riding school, The Riding Centre, where they do therapeutic riding. We do a lot of fundraisers, and I’m heavily involved. My wife is on the board, and my kids grew up helping out there.
JM: Thank you for sharing. To learn more about the The Riding Centre and how to make donations, please visit theridingcentre.org. Now, last but not least, you can take my last question and answer it philosophically or simply—however you please.
When I was a kid, I remember watching people like David Copperfield and thinking it was pure magic. As we get older, life teaches us to be cynical, and we begin to doubt what we can’t see or explain. As a journalist, I’m a fact finder, but I still find enjoyment in allowing my senses to be “challenged” by a talented magician. In that instance, I enjoy not knowing if it’s “real” or not. It’s not for me to say.
So, David, I’ll ask you—is magic real?
Williamson: Absolutely. There’s an old quote [by British novelist Roald Dahl], “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” It’s real for those who believe, and I definitely believe in magic.