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After the first of a planned series of shows to benefit The Riding Centre earlier this week, magician and sleight of hand artist David Williamson struck a playfully serious pose as two young fans marveled at his prestidigitation. The trio are pictured just after Williamson raised a magic wand into the air, pointed it at the ceiling — and made it disappear. His next benefit show will be Saturday, Oct. 21, 5–6 p.m., at YS Brewery; subsequent shows will be publicized online in advance at ilovecardtricks.com. (Photo by Lauren "Chuck" Shows)

Magic shows to benefit The Riding Centre

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If you want to see a little magic in the village, all it’ll cost you is about an hour’s worth of suspended disbelief and a donation to The Riding Centre.

In October and November, local resident David Williamson — a world-renowned magician and sleight-of-hand artist — is holding pop-up magic shows in venues around town. All donations collected at the shows will benefit the nonprofit, which provides riding lessons for youth and adults, as well as horse boarding services, clinics and the Therapeutic Riding Program.

Williamson’s next scheduled performance will be Saturday, Oct. 21, 5–6 p.m., at the Yellow Springs Brewery; subsequent performances will be publicized online at ilovecardtricks.com as they’re scheduled.

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The News caught up with Williamson at his first benefit performance Sunday, Oct. 15, at the Emporium. A crowd of a dozen-and-a-half or so arrived for the show, though by its end, the audience had grown to include everyone who came in for coffee or lunch as well.

“I’m going to tell you guys right now: The secret to magic is 793.8 — you’re welcome,” Williamson said as folks settled into their seats. “If you go to the library here in Yellow Springs, 793.8 in the Dewey Decimal System — that’s where the magic books are, and you can learn every magic trick there is.”

Williamson paused, and with a wry grin, added: “But the secrets are safe, because nobody reads books.”

Williamson kept up a steady, comedic patter with the audience as he made items disappear and reappear, break apart and come back together, and — of course — performed a bevy of card tricks. Much of his show was performed within inches of audience members — some eyeing his every move for even the whisper of a tell or giveaway, and others content to sit back and be amazed.

At the end of the show, several kids hung around as Williamson packed away his things, hoping to catch a few more bits of magic. When two young girls bade him farewell, he deftly pulled a coin from behind the ear of the younger one, and the older one stared in wonder.

As the girls left, the elder put her own fingers behind the younger one’s ear — just to see if anything was still there.

“I lecture to magicians all the time, and I say the strongest thing you can do is pull a coin out of a kid’s ear,” Williamson told the News after the show. “There’s no use trying to do anything else — that’s the most magical thing you can do.”

He added that the internet — its own kind of magic — is something of a “double-edged sword,” in that it can make trade secrets readily available to young folks, either to sate a one-time curiosity for how a trick is performed, or to inspire a love of the craft that could blossom into a lifelong pursuit.

“You can be a looky-loo — but the other side of the coin is that the doors into the art of magic are open to anybody,” Williamson said. “I meet a lot of young people, so I try to welcome them into the art form and encourage them.”

Williamson said his long career in magic began when he himself was just a kid growing up in Xenia. He got a magic set, and then his mother, who worked at the Greene County Library, helped him find the magic books — all filed under 793.8.

“I turned to [my mother] when I was 10 and said, ‘I’m gonna be a professional magician — go bother my brothers, I know what I’m doing,’” he said with a laugh. “The bug bites every kid — and sometimes it just doesn’t let go. That’s what happened to me and all my friends.”

Williamson said his mom was supportive of his interest in magic right from the start: When he was 13, she dropped him off at a magic convention in Colon, Michigan, where he spent a weekend sleeping in a pup tent, and networking with established magicians and forming connections that would last for years.

“It was the greatest weekend of my life,” he said.

Williamson said his passion turned to profession here in the village, when he landed his first gig at The Winds Cafe. At the time he was “table-hopping” — that is, going from table to table, performing sleight of hand for tips. He expanded his table-hopping to restaurants and clubs in Springfield and Dayton. Eventually, he said, the then-owner of La Comedia Dinner Theater in Springboro saw him “hustling for tips” and offered him a job performing and emceeing for the theater — a job he said made him “a little more presentable.”

Williamson continued working at La Comedia until he and his wife, Marsha, moved to Washington, D.C., in the ’80s. There, he moved into performing corporate magic — that is, performing at company trade shows, award ceremonies and product reveals, among other corporate events — for the next few decades of his career. He also expanded into writing books and filming DVDs and video lectures, all centered on performing or teaching magic.

The Williamsons moved back to the Miami Valley 20 years ago, this time finding a home in Yellow Springs. Both got involved with The Riding Centre at that time, with Marsha Williamson becoming a board member  and David Williamson constructing and overseeing the nonprofit’s website, as well as hosting other fundraisers over the years.

“We’re both heavily involved — we just love their mission,” Williamson said.

Outside of benefiting The Riding Centre, Williamson said the slate of upcoming shows is a chance to get back to performing in intimate spaces, as he did in his early, table-hopping days. As of late, his stages are fairly large: In 2014, he joined the cast of “The Illusionists,” a high-production-value magic show featuring a rotating cast of magic artists, where he performed as “The Trickster,” both on Broadway and on tour. He’s also part of the touring cast of “Circus 1903,” a contemporary circus show produced by Cirque Du Soleil, in which he performs as “The Ringmaster.” Williamson is set to perform in the touring show in Sydney, Australia, next month.

“It’s been so long since I’ve done this kind of close-up magic,” he said. “All the shows I’m involved in now are big-production shows, and I miss performing sleight of hand.”

After all, Williamson said, it’s the spark of interconnection — the kind that’s amplified when folks are face to face — that he loves most about magic.

“It’s the most intimate performing art I can think of,” he said. “You get their names, you touch the same props, you make decisions together and things happen — you create magic.”

Go to ilovecardtricks.com to stay up-to-date on Williamson’s benefit performances, or to donate to The Riding Centre.

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