Get him sitting a booth in a local Langford diner and he’s your average high school teen, polite, well-mannered and funny.
But make no mistake, 16-year-old magician Jason Verners knows how and when to summon the performer in himself.
Sometimes that happens at school when he’s just hanging with classmates at Belmont secondary. “I still do magic in class for practice,” he says, adding that high school kids can be a tough crowd for the fact it often takes a lot to impress them.
The award-winning magician will be out to impress a larger, more varied crowd Feb. 28 at Camosun College’s Gibson Auditorium when he unveils his new show, Jason Verners: Solo.
The show will focused mainly on his jaw-dropping work with cards and use of common items like cellphones, he says. It will also be his first opportunity to perform some of the tricks and illusions he’s been honing and expanding upon over the past number of months at magic workshops, camps, competitions and locally with the Victoria Magic Circle.
It’s about taking things to the next level, he says.
“Most of it for me is brand new, which is scary and cool at the same time,” he says.
While his personality and style come through no matter what size the crowd, the plan is to involve the audience even more than in his past shows, he says.
“It’s all closeup magic and there will be a camera over my hands the whole time, so people can see it on a large screen,” Verners says, adding the venue, originally designed as a lecture hall, is not your typical performance stage. “I like how it doesn’t feel like a theatre, there’s no curtain, unlike say, the McPherson (Playhouse).”
His magician buddy and fellow Grade 11 Belmont student Austin Nywening will be in charge of filming on the night as well as doing a little stage managing at the Gibson Auditorium.
Verners says his trip to Toronto this past year for the annual Sorcerer’s Safari camp for young magicians helped him think in a broader way about where he could take the illusions he’s been doing for some time now.
The new act will take him outside his comfort zone, which is an important next step in his development as a magician and performer, he says. “I feel like I’m on top of my game with this show.”
Like many talented performers, that ‘thing’ they do, the skill they’ve spent years working on and honing, is like a security blanket.
Verners is no different, but he’s been taking steps to get comfortable with himself outside the magical ring.
“I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking lately without magic,” he says, noting some of that happens with teacher Tom Grainger’s business classes at Belmont. “It can be so nerve-wracking with no magic to fall back on.”
Making people laugh can be a fallback when someone is nervous or trying to win over a crowd. Comedy hasn’t always come easy to Verners, he admits, but as anyone who has watched him over the years will attest, he’s developed his own character and personality on stage, which quickly makes the audience feel they’re part of the show.
“My goal in the first 15 seconds is to get people feeling comfortable,” he says.
His hope is that audience members at the Gibson Auditorium feel quickly that they can relax, open their minds and join in the fun.
“I feel the new show is focused not so much about me, but about the people who come up,” Verners says. “The point is not to make me look like a star, it’s to celebrate what I’ve been doing for a while.”