Magical mystery tour

The Illusionists at the Schuster Center

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: Adam Trent, “The Futurist,” specializes in technology illusions; photo: Vanessa Viana

Need a little magic in your life? Meet The Illusionists, seven magicians who are bringing their ensemble show, “Witness the Impossible,” to the Schuster Center January 13 and 14. These guys will defy death, take your breath and drop your jaw. Each disciplined in his own particular area of magic, The Illusionists have been touring the world with their show that is billed as “a mind-blowing spectacular.” You’ll see sleight of hand, weapon magic, escapology and not just a little bit of comedy.

Dan Sperry, “The Anti-Conjuror,” recently took the time to speak with Dayton City Paper. Sperry has been performing magic since age 10 and is well known for his appearance on the TV show America’s Got Talent. His stage persona has been described as “David Copperfield meets Marilyn Manson.”

DCP: How did this show come together?

Dan Sperry: There’ve been a lot of ensemble magic shows in the past. … Our original creators and idea guys behind it wanted to take that but put it together for a modern audience. … They picked and searched for a magician that is renowned and known for a specialty. You know Fox Force Five [from “Pulp Fiction”]? They each had their own specialty, right? So that’s kind of like what we are.

DCP: That’s what it seems like everyone is talking about, how you all have such defined personas that make it a spectacular show.

DS: There’s going to be something that appeals to at least one person in the group. … We’ve got a lot there that really is new and different. [In] the old-style variety shows there was a live orchestra. Now we’ve got this DJ, pyrotechnics and huge lighting, all this really cool stuff. There’s something that features each of our specialties alone, but the whole show moves fast. When I say “loud,” it’s not going to hurt Grandma and Grandpa’s ears, but it’s a big deal, kind of in your face at times, a show that just really brings something new. It probably feels refreshing as far as to an audience.

DCP: Tell me a little about your specialty. How did you develop this whole persona that’s so different from what people expect when they go to see a magician?

DS: What I did, really, was just start doing what I wanted to do. … I grew up where there wasn’t a magic shop and there wasn’t really a scene for magicians, so I had a lot of trial and error. A lot more error going on. I had to figure it out, find a way. Like, how do you do magic shows, and what do people like added? I had a lot of people telling me a lot of different things. And nothing was really seeming to click until I decided to quit listening to all those people and just kind of do what I want to do, what makes me happy, and that’s just to kind of be me and do it how I want to do it. Sounds probably real arrogant, but I’m not trying to be arrogant. You just got to make yourself happy. “Dance like nobody is watching” I think is what I try to do.

DCP: It seems like magic is kind of a boys’ club. There just aren’t that many female magicians.

DS: There are several really talented female magicians out there, but in a lot of ways, yeah, it kind of is a boys’ club. It’s like cheerleading. There’s nothing wrong with guy cheerleaders, and there are guy cheerleaders.

DCP: And they bring something really special to cheerleading.

DS: Yeah. I mean it’s kind of the same with magic. There’s nothing that says there can’t be female magicians. You know, there’s no list of rules of magicians on the wall of the castle or something. They exist, but you just don’t really see them that often. I think magic attracts guys for maybe a different reason than girls, you know? I think sometimes guys get into magic, they’re introverts, they want to actually meet a girl, perhaps, might be a reason, ice breaker things. There’s a bunch of different reasons. … I mean, a dude could go to Sephora and get new lipstick to help make them not feel so introverted. A guy could do that. I do that. But you know, magic, learning a card trick might be what helps get a really shy, stuttering seventh grade boy out of his shell.

DCP: What would you say to an aspiring young magician?

DS: It depends on what they want to try and do. Do they want to be one of The Illusionists someday? Or do they just want to learn a couple little things that they can do to try and break the ice at a business meeting? Or, “Ah, I got this kid. He just wants to sit and do long division all day. We can’t get him out of his bedroom. What do we do?”

The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible will take place Tuesday, January 13 and Friday, January 14 at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second Street. Performances are 8 p.m. on Tuesday and 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Tickets range from $35 to $95 and may be purchased at For more about The Illusionists, please visit For more about Dan Sperry, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at

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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at or through her website at

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