Lure of the stage is no illusion for young magicians
Boyce Dominick performs the disappearing scarf trick.
© 2004 Winston-Salem Journal Photo by Allie Brown
Will Reingold perfects his pull the rabbit out of the hat trick.
© 2004 Winston-Salem Journal Photo by Allie Brown
By Michael Huie
 K-12 Editor

  Boyce Dominick's favorite card trick is the three-card monte. He quickly shows his audience two 10s and a deuce, and then asks if they remember the cards. When they do, he looks glum as if something has gone awry. An audience member wonders aloud if they have foiled the magic.
    Boyce smiles and says, "It's all part of the trick."
    A sixth-grader at Jefferson Middle School, Boyce is one of several area students who have been bitten by the magic bug, courtesy of Ward Elementary School guidance counselor Scott Ertl. For the past three years, Ertl has sponsored a magic camp in the summer where he teaches students from age 8 to 16 the fundamentals of illusion and the art of working an audience.
    Several young magicians from last summer's Fun Magic Camp worked with Ertl in February to perform their own magic show at the Clemmons Public Library. Ertl says one of the primary things kids learn at the camp is overcoming shyness, and how to connect with an audience. 
    "This gives them a way to connect with other people," says Ertl. "Magic gives kids the willingness to be themselves."
    Performing is second nature to Ertl. After graduating from high school, Ertl literally joined the circus and spent the next several years touring with Vidbel's Circus up and down the East Coast. Ertl's act was a combination of clowning, magic, juggling and stilt walking. For him, Ertl, says the focus was always on relating to an audience and not the trick itself.
     "I did comedy magic," he says, "so when I did a trick I was just as baffled as the audience. To me, it's not the trick itself it's the message."
    Ertl's career included performing more than 3000 shows with the circus before "retiring" in 1996. He also toured Russia in a show with the real-life Patch Adams.

    The day before their show in Clemmons, Ertl's young magicians rehearse their sleight-of-hand as well as their patter.
   Will Reingold, a fifth grader at Brunson Elementary School, says his favorite trick involves a lollipop that changes colors, but he really loves the thrill of performing.
    "I like to be popular and get people's attention," he says. "When I'm up [on stage] I feel completely calm. I have butterflies, but it's excitement not fear."
    Boyce adds, "It's fun to create optical illusions and amaze people."
    Austin Deheck, a fourth grader at Sherwood Forest Elementary, and Clemmons Elementary fifth-grader Jacob Peller say perfecting tricks gives them something to work on when they're bored. Austin tries a bit of mind reading with the mental prediction board while Jacob demonstrates how a playing card can be cut into thirds and then, magically, restored.
    "I used to sit and do nothing," says Jacob, "but you can really express yourself doing tricks."
    Ertl has been teaching comedy and magic almost as long as he has been performing. He taught a class in Humor and Creativity at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., when he was 16 years old. He was asked to teach the class while he was wearing clown make-up, he says, and when he reported to the college (sans makeup) to accept the job they could hardly believe they'd offered the job to a teen. Later, Ertl taught at the Frenchwoods Festival of the Performing Arts in the Catskill mountains in New York.
    This summer will be Ertl's fourth year doing the magic camp. He says kids are drawn to it due to their interest in magic, and their strong desire to get onstage and feel the reaction of an audience. 
    "Kids are dying to perform," says Ertl. "When you're a kid it's a real thrill to have 50 or 100 people applauding for you."

For more information, about Ertl's camp, visit his Web site or call 765-7319.

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