Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today, we’re talking with Peter Wood ’06, theatre, a magician whose new show, Timeless Deceptions, opens next month in Columbia, MD. Read more about how he and his brother, Matt, a current UMBC student, are living out a dream that started on Peter’s fifth birthday…
Q:In a few words, describe the type of magic you do. Would your work remind us of any particular magicians we’ve seen?
A: The magic I share is very interactive, because I really try to treat the audience as my co-stars in the show and not just “spectators” watching from afar. I’m a fan of magicians from the turn of the 20th century, so the look and feel of my shows tends to be more Vaudeville and less Vegas. I’m closer to the magicians you’ve seen in The Prestige and The Illusionist than guys you’ve seen on television.
Q: Tell us a little about how you got into magic in the first place.
A: As a fifth birthday present, my parents got me a Blackstone magic kit, with all sorts of little plastic and cardboard magic supplies. We went to the library, and I’d just soak up all the books they had on magic. Once I outgrew the sets they sold in toy stores, we started going to Barry’s Magic Shop, which had every kind of trick imaginable, beginner to professional. I got paid to do my first show when I was 10, started “Shazam Magic” later that year, and haven’t stopped yet!
Q: What’s it like performing magic for corporate groups? Would you approach a corporate job differently than, say, one for a room full of families?
A: With a family crowd, I’m really performing two shows at once: one full of jokes and gags for the kids, and another whole layer of material just for the adults. But with my corporate audiences, I get to share more “intellectual” magic, like card tricks and mind-reading feats. Each group is rewarding in their own way, and the variety of entertaining different groups keeps it fun for me.
Q:What’s the craziest thing ever to happen to you onstage?
A: A few years ago, Matt and I were invited to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC. When we arrived, our contact gave us a huge list of restrictions: no magic wands, nothing with fire, and no speaking the word “magic.” Matt says he was backstage cracking up as I tried to edit – on the fly – such an integral word out of my script. I’m still not sure why they hired us, but thankfully the audience was very kind, and the show went remarkably well.
Q:How’s it feel to be using your theatre degree in this way? And to be working with your brother, a current UMBC student?
A: I love performing, but my degree is actually in the technical side of theatre. So when I build my own equipment, or have to work with the sound or lighting at a venue, I’m tapping into skills honed at UMBC. Working with Matt always makes the show better, both for me and the audience. In addition to running sound and managing props (both of which he does masterfully), he’ll join me onstage for several partner routines. It’s a great chance to tap into the kind of dynamic that The Marx Brothers and Penn & Teller have built their careers on.
Q:What trick would you most like for people to remember about you and why?
A: Honestly, I hope my best “trick” is giving people a break from reality, if only for an hour or two. If my enthusiasm is contagious, if they’re engaged and interacting, then they’ll unconsciously put aside whatever might have been troubling them before the show. Ultimately, my goal isn’t for people to say “You should see what this guy can do,” but just simply “You should see this guy.”