Magic Fosters Community, Encourages Creativity


Shawn Lisann, ready to perform a card-trick.

Throughout its nearly 200-year history, Oberlin College and Conservatory has been a mainstage for world-class musicians, comedians, dancers, studio artists, and more. However, there is one artistic tradition that has yet to find its time in the Oberlin spotlight: magic. Magic was the cause of some truly transformative experiences for me in high school. I was known as “MagicMan,” spending my free time in the halls showing card tricks and also performing alongside my closest friends for hundreds of audience members. Magic is more than a skill to showcase;  it is something that can be used to invoke a unique enthusiasm in one’s community, and I am excited to now bring it to Oberlin.

Magic is about friendship, unity, creativity, and engagement within a community. There is no better way to start an interaction with someone than by blowing their mind with a simple card trick. College third-year Rohan Gold likes the interactivity and intimacy of magic in comparison to other performing arts offered at Oberlin. 

“Magic inherently requires more engagement from the audience,” Gold said.

I was able to demonstrate my magic skills earlier this month during Oberlin’s annual Variety Showcase, hosted by the Obertones. For me, as a first-year at Oberlin who has been performing magic for over five years, the opportunity to showcase magic as artistic expression in Finney Chapel was extraordinary.

While magic is certainly a means of self-expression, magic enthusiasts like Professor of Jewish Studies Matthew Berkman are equally invested in the art of designing a quality trick. 

“As a writer, I appreciate the design of a good magic trick,” Berkman said. “Performing magic well is like crafting a compelling written argument. Good magicians, like persuasive writers, leave you no alternative but to believe in the reality they’re constructing for you … imagine walking across Wilder Bowl and people are just pulling rabbits out of hats left and right. A practicing [magic community] would certainly bring a greater sense of childlike wonder to campus. Sure, we’d soon have a massive rabbit infestation, but I think it’d be worth it.”

Having students, professors, and Oberlin community members learn the ins and outs of a few tricks can go a long way in normalizing magic as a form of artistic expression. With any luck, and a rabbit or two, the creativity and wonder of magic will hopefully soon conjure its way into Oberlin.