It's Pure Magic...
by Jackie DeMaline
You've probably never heard of him, but George Saterial is the best magician in the world. At least his fellow magicians think so.
Earlier this summer, Mr. Saterial was awarded gold medals from the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians.
"It's a little bit of pressure," laughs the magic man. " I'm really kind of shy off-stage, so all this is kind of weird for me."
Cincinnati audiences will see the 7 1/2 minute magic cabaret act that bowled over magic professionals when Mr. Saterial takes the stage at Abracadabra tonight through Sunday, the annual prestidigitation benefit for the Playhouse in the Park.
Don't expect to see Mr. Saterial turning ladies into tigers or making the theater disappear. His arena is cabaret magic, primarily working with doves. He can make them appear "virtually anywhere".
" I do have a couple of illusions, but I don't want to be an illusionist. I'm a magician who uses illusions," he said by phone from his home near Boston.
" I like to use my own finger-flicking skill. I don't want to rely on a box with a trapdoor. It's like being a musician. It's all skill and practice."
He started practicing as a youngster when his father showed him "a couple of tricks he'd picked up from a friend." He was intrigued, and did what he still recommends to magic-loving kids today. "I went to the library, took out some magic books. It stimulates the imagination more than buying tricks in a magic shop."
His parents took him to magic shows, and back at home he'd try to re-create illusions he liked out of cardboard. He built his own props then, and he builds them now.
By high school, magic was a serious hobby, and he'd do a few shows on weekends. At college he earned a degree in mechanical engineering and played hockey. " I didn't really think it was possible to earn a living as a professional magician.
Even so, he decided to enter the Society of American Magicians' competition one year and became the first recipient of the Kleinman Award, given to talented up-and-comers. They loved him, they invited him back, they sent him to the World congress of Magic in Switzerland. Offers to perform in Europe poured in.
Mr. Saterial largely ignored these signs that perhaps he had a future as a well-paid professional magician. He stuck with his engineering studies.
Full-time employment was the rude awakening. Having chosen engineering because he believed "it was a wide-open field where I could use my imagination and do anything," Mr. Saterial found it to be anything but. He hated the regimentation.
In the meantime, he was still doing magic on weekends and vacations and had more offers coming in than he could meet. "It was now or never," he says, and he took the leap. He never has had to look back.
He entered this year's competitions almost on a lark-- Mr. Saterial hadn't competed since college "but there were several things I wanted to change in the act, and I'd kept putting it off, so I gave myself a deadline." The deadline were the competitions.
Even though he was well-known in the Northeast, had popped up in music videos and taken an occasional television gig, he thought it was about time "to get my name and face out there."
The professional magic competitions Mr. Saterial just won are judged on a point system in a variety of categories including the performance, the artist's professionalism, routine, style, skill and originality of presentation.
A magician can earn more points than his competitors without earning enough points for a gold medal. Mr. Saterial's gold medal from the International Brotherhood of Magicians is only the sixth awarded in 19 years.
Since there are a limited number of illusions, the real trick for a magician could just be applying an indelible signature to routines that are essentially variations on a centuries-old theme.
"I work with birds, which a lot of magicians do," Mr. Saterial acknowledges. "So a lot relies on originality of presentation. You find twists. I use different objects" including a grandfather clock.
And he's worked up a character for himself "who's confident and flirtatious--part of the personality I would like to have in real life."
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