Monday, March 21, 2011

Making Magic in Vienna

Louis Meyer was ten years old when his grandparents took him to Disney World. There used to be a magic shop on Main Street in those days and Meyer’s grandparents brought him into the store where he bought his first magic set. Back home in Cincinatti, his mother found a magic shop that taught magic tricks, as well as the sale of tools of the trade. A year later, he joined the shop’s kids’ group, the Counts of Conjuring.
That was the beginning of a life-long passion for magic. Now, Meyer performs his magic shows in his newly opened Childtime Magic Party Place on Dominion Road.
"Magic is very hard to learn at first because there are a lot of basic techniques you have to master," Meyer said. Some magic tricks have gimmicks, he explained, a tool that is necessary to make the magic work. Other magic tricks have no gimmick and are totally dependent on the magicians and their skills. A levitating table is one such.
"When you first start out, you use gimmicks a lot," Meyer said. "Then, the more you learn, you realize you don’t need gimmicks, that you can really do the stuff on your own."
CHILDTIME MAGIC’S party package includes 25 minutes of physical play on the venue’s inflatables, a 45-minute interactive magic show starring the birthday child, and 45 minutes in the party room. The centerpiece of the theater is a draped stage reminiscent of olden days. Three levels separate the three components of the birthday party package.
For Angelique and Chris Bennett, of Vienna, who hosted their son’s birthday party at Childtime Magic, the money was well-spent. A colleague of Chris Bennett’s recommended Childtime Magic.
"I loved it," said Angelique Bennett. "It had the right mix of magic and humor. He [Louis the Magician] kept the kids entertained."
The magic show brought out laughter and shouts from the children sitting cross-legged on the carpet while parents sat behind, themselves laughing, in chairs. Abbot the Rabbit and a white dove made guest appearances.
Jeremy Bennett, celebrating his sixth birthday, said he was excited about magic and the magic show. As much as he liked the moonbounce, Jeremy said his favorite part was the magic show. Meyer presented Jeremy, as the birthday celebrity, with his own Louis the Magician magic set. In the party room, Jeremy was showing off the box’s contents. His friend and classmate, Denison Sisson, also said his favorite part of the party was the magic show and that he planned on learning the magic tricks printed on Meyer’s funny money.
Meyer drifted away from magic when David Copperfield became so big in the industry that Meyer concluded that you had to be a David Copperfield to earn a living.
Meyer was working professionally as a children’s photographer when he re-caught the magic bug about 11 years ago. He continued to work photography during the week and performed magic on weekends.
Meyer performed his first kids’ birthday party show in December 1999. "The kids loved it," said Meyer. "They loved what I did. They had a great time. I realized that the experience I had with kids, working as a children’s photographer, making them smile for pictures, really paid off at the kids’ show."
The toll of working seven days a week forced Meyer to make a career decision.
"To be a good children’s photographer, you had to immediately becomes friends with the kids, and there are techniques to get them to smile, not be afraid," Meyer said. "When I did my first kids’ birthday party, I realized that all the skills I learned in ten years of photography came into play. I decided kids’ magic was my forte."
Childtime Magic is ten years old. Even as Meyer traveled from house to house to perform for children’s birthday parties, he had a goal in mind. He wanted to open a permanent location where the parties came to him. He recognized that, while a few other businesses offered games and inflatables, nobody offered a facility that featured children’s magic and inflatable play equipment. Meyer lives in Alexandria but when he looked at a map, he saw Vienna as a central location. He performed at ViVa! Vienna! on several occasions.
"Vienna is really the only little town in Northern Virginia," said Meyer. "I’ve done tons of shows in Vienna and I knew the environment. It seemed to be family-friendly."
As magic shops have slowly disappeared from the retail scene, aspiring magicians have lost the human teacher. Learning magic tricks from a set is difficult, Meyer said. "Nowadays, with the internet used for everything, magic shops are rare. It’s harder to learn magic without having a mentor to teach you techniques."
The Washington, D.C. chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians is one of the largest chapters in the world with its 110 members. The chapter meets monthly where members share techniques and learn from guest magicians.
While heading the D.C. chapter as president in 2008-2009, Meyer recognized something was missing, kids. He recalled the kids’ group he was part of when he first started learning the trade, the Counts of Conjuring, and developed a kids’ group in the D.C. area, which he nostalgically named the Counts of Conjuring.
In mid-February, Meyer introduced a daytime open play time at Childtime Magic. Children have use of the inflatables for a fee of $10, any time between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
IN THE WORKS, currently, are plans to offer afterschool magic lessons for youngsters. A one-week summer camp for 7 to 15-year-olds is planned as well.
For those children who cannot wait for the afterschool program or summer camp to begin, there’s free membership in the Childtime Magic Birthday Club. Each month, the child receives an e-mail with an instructional video from Louis the Magician. Childtime Magic offers the birthday member a discount on the party magic show booking.
Meyer no longer travels to house parties; he performs exclusively at the Party Place. Magician Kevin McGuire performs on the road.
By:Donna ManzConnection Newspaper

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