He didn’t attend Hogwarts, but Jeff Evans started studying magic at about the same age his fictional counterparts were heading off to their first year at the legendary school of witchcraft and wizardry.
When he was twelve years old, Evans made a life altering discovery at his grandparent’s home in Spokane, Washington. There he happened upon a vintage book of coin tricks, a forty year old text filled with classic sleight-of-hand magic. He started reading and quickly mastered his first illusion. He was hooked but soon realized that much of the book was far too advanced for someone just starting his magical journey. He came home and started scouring the shelves at the Lacey Timberland Library for more information. “I even recommend now to kids who are interested in learning magic to go to the library and look in the 793.8 section,” Evans says.
At age 16, while Harry Potter and friends were busy taking their Ordinary Wizarding Level Tests (OWLs), Evans was already advanced enough to land his first magic gigs. “I started doing my first professional paid shows when I was a sophomore or junior in high school,” he recalls. “Some of the first shows were for the local libraries – the Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater libraries. They’ve had me do programs nearly every single year since.”
Evans, who was born and raised in Lacey, has been a professional magician for nearly twenty years now. After graduating from North Thurston High School he attended Pierce College then Central Washington University, all the while performing magic on the side. Although he studied electronics in school, he knew that he was destined for a different path. “When I graduated from college I had already decided that I wanted to take some time and see how far I could go without having to get a ‘real job,'” he says. “I just couldn’t imagine working for a company where I had to be in an office with a set schedule. I’ve always kind of been an entrepreneur.” He’s been a full time magician ever since.
Evans owns Amazement Productions with fellow magician Rick Anderson. Both are affiliated with the Tacoma Magic Club. It’s a place, explains Evans, “For anyone who’s interested in magic, either as a hobby or professionally, to get together and learn and practice and be critiqued and take advantage of the club’s library of magic books and videos.” It was at one of his first meetings that the then thirteen-year-old Evans met his mentor and future business partner. Anderson had already been a professional magician for decades. He has been recognized as one of the top magicians in the country via his placement in both regional, national, and international magic competitions. These days, both he and his protégé, Evans, perform an average of 250 shows each per year.
According to Evans, the magic community is a small one. Of the regular members of the Tacoma Magic Club, there are only a handful of full time professionals. He has learned that it’s a good living, “If you’re good at marketing.”
“There’s two parts to Show Business. There’s the Show – performing magic. And there’s the Business . You really need to be good at marketing yourself. I’ve learned a lot about the art of self promotion. The performance is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of it is making phone calls, sending e-mails, updating the web-site – marketing.”
Where he does shows depends up on the time of year. “During December I (do) a lot of holiday parties, so it’s corporate banquets and private parties and Santa breakfasts. Then during the summer I do a lot of county fairs in August and September, and in June and July I do a lot of libraries for their summer reading program. During the weekdays I do school programs. On weekends I do kids’ birthday parties.” The Parks and Recreation Departments in Lacey, Tumwater, and Olympia hire him frequently for performances and to teach workshops.
Evans has no plans to add grand scale illusions to his repertoire . “I like an act that packs flat and plays big. I don’t want to have anything that I have to have a van or assistants. I like doing a kind of stand-up show. I don’t like the props and all the extra set up that goes into bringing in a big box.” His show requires one trip to his car.
He recently performed a half hour show for a group of students at The Evergreen Christian School on Olympia’s west side. The audience was a typical one – children aged five to fourteen plus a handful of teachers and other adults. He began his show the minute the first students started filing into the room, wandering between groups, doing sleight of hand and other close-up magic.
Once the real show began, Evans had them all, including a group of skeptical tweeners, in the palm of his hand. One eighth grade girl volunteered a twenty dollar bill for a trick then seemed rather put out when it magically disappeared for about 20 minutes. Evans kept her interest by talking about it frequently and bragging – then apologizing – for its transformation into a hundred, a ten, a five, and a one dollar bill. She was relieved when it finally re-appeared, intact, at the end of the show rolled up in the middle of an orange.
Younger students were thrilled to be pulled from the audience to serve as magician’s assistants, even if it meant getting glue poured into their hair or having a cup of water balanced on their head. One mom in the audience was “volunteered” by her charges to have her diamond ring polished in what turned out to be a grinder. Oops. No worries though, Evans has his own version of the Reparo spell.
After the show Evans was approached by eighth grader Spencer Dowers who had a question. “There’s a quarter trick that my dad does. Have you heard of it? He puts it in his hand, closes his hand, blows on it or whatever, opens his hand and it’s gone. And then he gets it behind my ear. I asked him (to show it to me) and he said ‘it’s a magic trick’ so he doesn’t want to tell me. I don’t know how he did that because I told him to pull up his sleeve. I saw him put it in his hand then open it, and it was gone.”
Evans shook his head and said “Nope, never heard of it. I’d have to see him do it.” He then proceeded to do the exact trick Spencer had described.
If Dowers wants to learn the “trick” to his father’s or Evans’ magic, the route Evans recommends is the one he took . “Go to the library first and check out a magic book.” Remember, it’s the 793.8 section. It’s kind of like exploring the restricted section in the Hogwarts library!
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