Grade 10 student Jason Verners’ friends can’t stand magic.
The thing is, Verners, 15, has practised and performed magic since he was seven years old. He has a wide variety of original tricks to his name, has played gigs all over North America and still finds time to attend Belmont secondary school.
And his friends are guinea pigs for new material.
“They hate magic now, that’s the best way to put it,” Verners laughs. “I’m like ‘Can I do this? What did you not like? Hey, let me show you again,’ for three hours and they’re like ‘What are you kidding me?’”
The bug started for Verners when, so he’s told, he was trotted up on a stage in front of a crowd at a Christmas party and loved the attention. Two years later he received a magic kit and began performing for his family. He was hooked.
Now with shows in Las Vegas, Florida, Toronto, Vancouver and Greater Victoria under his belt, Verners is a veteran of the stage. He speaks of corporate gigs, fundraisers and palling around with famous magicians and musicians, yet he also worries about being late for class and finding a ride home.
Magic is an outlet for Verners, who said as an only child found a lot of free time on his hands while growing up.
“I wasn’t good at hockey, I wasn’t good at soccer. I tried them and I was so bad. Magic was just this space where I was like ‘I do something that no one else can.’”
In his performances Verners acts a perhaps exaggerated version of himself, rather than some persona. He said he admires magicians who can put on a whole extravagant character, but he simply can’t be anything but himself.
“I’m this little teenage boy who likes wearing button-up shirts all the way,” Verners said, shrugging. “It’s like a professional teenager, in a way.”
While magic is an important aspect, Verners ultimate goal is to put on a good show. He revolves his tricks around stories, jokes and music to fill out the experience, and uses audience participation throughout.
“There’s sometimes when you’re in a show and you’re talking to someone … and something so funny happens,” Verners said. “The people make the show good.”
The use of technology is another gimmick perhaps setting Verners apart from his older peers. He has a whole host of tricks revolving around cellphones and iPods, using audience member’s devices to complete the gag.
Having good people skills and an outgoing personality are the greatest tools a magician can have, Verners said. Once you nail that, anyone can learn tricks, he believes.
That’s not to say it’s simple. It takes practice and dedication, hours spent working with a deck of cards while watching TV or using the computer. Even then, Verners always strives to move beyond basic tricks into areas truly amazing, bringing creativity into the mix.
“I hate clever. I don’t want it to be clever, I want it to be magical,” Verners said.
With a show this Thursday, Dec. 5 at Al Smith Studio (660 Discovery St.) at 7:30 p.m., Verners will unveil a batch of new tricks, along with a couple of classics, in a small intimate setting of about 60 people.
“It’s nerve-wracking but it’s so exciting,” Verners said.
Tickets for the show are $20 plus fees and available at brownpapertickets.com.