David Williamson: Ringmaster of Circus 1903, Close-up Magician, Applied Psychologist

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For the first time ever, we welcomed a professional magician, David Williamson, to the Feisworld Podcast.

David Williamson is currently touring in the US in a circus called Circus 1903,  a brand new show from the producers of The Illusionists and the puppeteers of War Horse. It’s a fun celebration of the golden age of the circus. Their most recent stop was in Boston, MA. (Feisworld HQ!)

I fell in love with David’s performance instantly. The audience was naturally and completely captivated by his words, his humor, and his incredible talent for improvising with children ages 5-9 on stage.

To my surprise, David isn’t a trained ringmaster, but a professional magician. He has been featured on ABC’s Champions of Magic, where he appeared with Princess Stephanie as he performed his miracles at different locations in and around Monaco.

“The Closeup Magician Is the Supreme Applied Psychologist.”

You know how people are going to look, you know how to divert attention and interest, and you have to put your presentation with some meaning for them to keep them interested. Kids who study magic, come away with a toolset that serves them beyond the magic tricks.

Working as a magician is a career very few people can pull off.

How did David become a magician and sustain a career for decades? What are the words of wisdom he’d like to pass on to our younger generation? 

David is going to unveil the world of magic to you, and the life of performing with a Circus.

More on David: 

David 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 3. He was seen recently on The CW’s Masters Of Illusion TV series. 

In 1981 David won first place in the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ sleight-of-hand competition. That year he also became the first-ever recipient of the prestigious Gold Cups Award of Excellence in close-up magic, these are among numerous awards and recognitions David received worldwide. 

His best-selling magic book, “Williamson’s Wonders”, has been translated into three languages. His instructional DVDs “Sleight Of Dave”, “Dave 2” and “Magic Farm” are bestsellers worldwide.

David was a featured performer in the World Tour of The Illusionists Live touring Australia and London’s West End. He is also a frequent favorite Guest Entertainer on Disney Cruise Lines. 

During our conversation, I found out that David has also performed in my motherland – China, on the most-watched program in a country of 1.3 billion people. The program is called “Spring Festival Celebration” aka Chinese New Year’s Eve broadcast. David appeared two years in a row and he was invited to teach in many magic workshops in China.

Please visit David Williamson’s webiste, and don’t forget to give him a shoutout on Twitter

Wanna watch David perform live? Circus 1903 is touring now, get your tickets here. (No commission for Feisworld) 

Special Thanks To…

Circus 1903’s Digital Media Director Grace E. Torreano and Philip for providing us with amazing soundtracks for this episode! 

Show Notes:

  • [07:00] You looked incredible on stage, and you were unbelievable with kids. How were you discovered as a ringmaster?
  • [09:00] How long have you been touring with Circus 1903?
  • [10:30] How does it feel to start a show from scratch, to be involved from the beginning, including the design process?
  • [13:00] How was the design/creation process like? Did you have to cut or remove parts of the show?
  • [16:00] Is it difficult for you to cut off parts that you have worked on for a long time? How do you deal with that, as a creative?
  • [20:00] What were you doing when you were 10 years old? What was going through your head?
  • [26:00] What do you feel about the ‘art’ of practicing magic?
  • [32:00] You’ve worked with David Blaine. What was that like?
  • [34:00] How was your experience performing on BTV and reaching the entire China on TV.
  • [41:00] What was it like for you in the beginning, what were some of the hard parts, starting and making a living out of magic? Was there anything you’d have done differently?
  • [45:00] Do you think it is harder now because there are many different paths or ways to make a living out of magic compared to how it was in the past?
  • [47:00] What are your thoughts on how young magicians can stand out these days and how they can create a brand that differentiates themselves?
  • [50:00] How do you deal with kids? How did you learn how to handle them, considering the amount of energy you need?
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David and me backstage, 2019

Favorite Quotes

  • [27:00] That was before the internet, it was before instructional videos, it was all from books, and it wasn’t until I met with other people who did it that I said ‘Oh, that’s how it’s supposed to look like’, ‘that’s how you should hold the deck of cards’… and it took a long time. Today, a kid in Singapore can invent a move and then it’s hacked, and by morning, somebody in Finland had improved it over four generations and it’s performance ready. It’s amazing what’s happening today.
  • [28:00] They don’t want to be a performer, they don’t want to travel the world and be in a show or do birthday parties to make money on the weekends. They don’t want to do that. They want to make a cool video, edit it, put some awesome music, a little slow motion, a couple of filters, and put it up on YouTube, THE END.
  • [34:00] Close-up magic is a very specialized branch of the art, and here is what it is: It’s a very intimate type of performance. No comic, no dancer, no actor even really, can get that intimate with another human being, where you are handing them an object, and looking into their eyes and using their name, finding a little bit about their background to infuse some meaning for them. It’s a very personal thing. So that’s why it’s wonderful…
  • [36:00] It’s an art form, it’s a form of self-expression, it’s a way for me to connect with another person, or maybe three or four at a time. It’s pretty special.
  • [37:00] Because that’s what my books told me. Magic is not for practicing in your room, it’s for going out to the world and sharing it with people. You need another brain in the room to appreciate what you’ve created and to get the magical effect.
  • [39:00] The closeup magician is the supreme applied psychologist. You know how people are going to look, you know how to divert attention and interest, and you have to put your presentation with some meaning for them to keep them interested. Kids who study magic, come away with a toolset that serves them beyond the magic tricks.
  • [51:00] When I was doing The Illusionist in London, I had a little boy on stage and I said ‘come over here I want to talk to you’. He sat on the floor, so I sat on the floor with him, under the spotlight. I asked him if he believed in magic, and he replied ‘I’m not sure’. And I thought that was a really great answer. And I said ‘you know what? I’m not sure either, but I’ll tell you this, many magical things, and amazing things are going to happen to you during your entire lifetime, that’s for sure’… And he accepted that.

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