Toronto’s sleight of hand master, David Ben, hits stage

December 5, 2015

Toronto’s sleight of hand master, David Ben, hits stage

He is taking part in the Soulpepper Family Festival

When people come to see the show, it works on many levels,” says Toronto magician David Ben, during an interview at the Annex headquarters of his company Magicana. “If people sit there and say, ‘How did he do that?’ then I think I’ve failed.”

Now, that’s not to say that it should be obvious how Ben does his tricks, but more that he wants to take audiences on a journey. The questions come later.

The next journey begins on Dec. 5 and runs throughout the month as Ben’s show Tricks hits the stage at the Young Centre for Performing Arts as part of the Soulpepper Family Festival.  

For the new show, Ben returns to some familiar material and tackles it in a new way and with new technology that elevates the performance to a higher level.

“There is an underpinning of texture, or musical motif, historical references and video content that put the show on a different intellectual plane,” he says. 

His is a confidence and a sense of artistry that has come after four decades studying the craft.

Ben’s interest in magic was piqued after he received some childhood magic kits courtesy of his parents. But, like many budding illusionists, he was hooked after watching one of Doug Henning’s television specials. After that, it was frequent trips to the Arcade Magic and Novelty Shop. 

While at the University of Toronto, Ben worked at Morrisey Magic and was soon learning the tricks of the illusionist trade from the best, Ross Bertram, considered one of the most gifted sleight of hand artists of the 20th century, who would play the mentor to Ben.

“I gravitate toward books and sleight of hand,” says Ben, who picked up a copy of Expert at the Card Table, by S. W. Erdnase, and it soon became his bible. He went through it page by page alongside Bertram.

“I’ve been studying that book for 40 years,” Ben says. 

So exhaustive is his study of the centruy-old book that Ben actually released his own revision of it this past summer. 

“The problem with the [original] book is that it’s very tough to read and didn’t have an editor,” he says. “I decided to reorganize the text and also include 700 images of my hands. Basically, it’s a coffee-table book on card cheating.”

In addition to studying card tricks, Ben studied law, eventually embarking on a short career as a tax lawyer before giving it up to pursue magic. And he’s continued to perform around the world, consult and write from his Annex headquarters. But his desire remains the same. 

“It’s about questioning what’s possible,” he says. “Secrets are there to make the world seem bigger.”


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