James Changefield draws the attention of a spectator to his hand.
“I hurt it pretty bad last week so I might not be able to show you any tricks,” he says.
Changefield is a magician who runs Magic Camp, part of the Pine Tree Camp summer program held on the Lynn University campus. As the concerned spectator leans in to inspect the wound, the biggest fake coin – about the size of a political campaign button – pops out of Changefield’s hand.
That’s misdirection, the essence of magic, in action.
“Everybody wants to be amazed,” said David Gindy, who started Magic Camp 24 years ago. “That’s what attracts people.”
Magic Camp just happens to be one of the oldest and most popular specialty camps in the Pine Tree program, which also offers sessions in computers, arts, multimedia, sports, science, game tech, dinosaurs and a song-and-dance camp.
David Gindy has worked with Pine Tree Camp for 14 years. He and Changefield started with the same cheesy magic sets that many children got for presents — the ones everybody else soon abandoned or broke.
But they just kept going. Both put themselves through college and have made careers as professional magicians. Occasionally a camper will return as an adult who has gone into the entertainment field as a career.
“Who knows who might be the next David Copperfield?” says Gindy. He ticks off the successful entertainers who started as magicians: Johnny Carson, Steve Martin, Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy, to name but a few.
That’s great, but that’s not the ultimate point of magic camp.
“The parents tell me their kids are doing magic tricks in the car on the way home from the first day,” says Gindy.
Gindy says it is impossible to predict who will have a talent for magic. It’s often the shyest kid in the group, though.
“These kids are me when I was younger,” says Changefield, who is all dolled up in his maroon and black brocade magician’s vest. “These kids aren’t necessarily the sports stars. They are the tinkerers, the thinkers. They want to look into how something works.”
The kids learn a new trick every day, and receive the props they need. They learn how to make balloon animals and how to juggle. They can progress each week to a higher level magic wand and at the end – of course! – they put on a show.
“Magic teaches kids perspective,” says Changefield. “They have that ‘aha!’ moment of seeing how the trick works, and they see the reaction of someone who doesn’t understand the trick. They learn that everything you see is not what everybody else sees.”
Magic changed Changefield from a high school bookworm who took Advanced Placement physics to a man who can make giant coins – and quite a few other objects – appear out of thin air.
Then there is the intangible benefit.
“It’s a control thing,” says Changefield, who joined the circus at Florida State University, learning juggling and stilt-walking and polishing his magic act. “As a child, you don’t really have much control over your environment. With magic, you have these secrets that the grownups don’t know. It’s empowering.”
Pine Tree Camps run three sessions: Monday to June 28, July 1-19 and July 22 to Aug. 9. Magic camp is $1,020 for three weeks. For information, visit www.pinetreecamp.com or call 561-237-7310.