Suspending Belief: Adam Perry is creating magic on a growing stage

Published 7:01 am Sunday, August 6, 2017

A number of years Angela Perry found herself being guided by the hand through a crowd by none other than famed illusionist David Copperfield.

She had already been pulled up on stage during the show in Las Vegas, Nevada and thinking the walk was still part of the act, Copperfield delivered her to Adam Perry who was waiting for her with one question and a ring.

It was part of an overarching plan by Adam, who had gotten to know Copperfield over the years and threw caution to the wind when contacting the magician’s people asking if he would help.

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“I was thinking about proposing and thinking about ways to do it,” Adam said, looking back. “And I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool?’ Let’s take a trip out to Vegas and do that.”

Adam had met Copperfield a number of times up to that point, even getting to have dinner with him after one of Copperfield’s performances, but it had been awhile since they had talked. So, naturally Adam had his doubts.

“I decided, we’ll I’m going to email his people because I don’t have his direct information and ask, ‘hey, I think it would be cool if I could propose to my wife on stage at your show.’”

Doubting it would work and that maybe he would be passed over, Adam found that indeed he would get the opportunity.

“It was out on a limb,” he admitted. “You’re never going to know unless you try. Fortunately, luckily I got a yes out of it.”

The one-night-only addition to Copperfield’s act involved a bit of Adam’s own craft in an effort to make this engagement so memorable. It’s a craft that has steadily grown over the years for a life that has been — magical.

Adam Perry levitates a small table — no strings attached. Eric Johnson

In the blink of an eye

Ironically, it was Copperfield that got Adam started down this path of magic and illusion. Copperfield couldn’t know a young aspiring magician from Austin, Minnesota, was in the audience, but then Adam didn’t know it either.

In fact, his beginning in magic was sour.

“I was probably six or seven when I first started,” Adam said, sitting in a living room where reminders of magic adorn the walls. “I got a magic kit as a kid. I actually ended up hating it at that point because those magic kit you buy, everybody already knows.”

A few years later Adam was in that crowd watching Copperfield’s world-renown show, feeling a new spark begin to grow.

“I was like, ‘Wow, look at all this,’” Adam said.

Adam returned to Copperfield’s show and took a more studious approach. Rather than join in the hundreds watching in amazement, Adam treated it like school, studying his tricks and his process.

“So I sat, watching him again and by the end of the show it just clicked,” Adam remembered. “I know how he did it all. I don’t know why, but it just happened. I blame it on a lot of book reading. I had done a lot of research prior to that point.”

Adam threw all of his attention into slight-of-hand, misdirection and entertainment. He took in every show and TV special he could.

It was all self-taught through observation, “no school, no nothing. It just stuck,” he said.

For a time, however, it was a hobby of sorts. Something he used to entertain himself and entertain others. The idea of using illusion as a career didn’t start until later in high school.

From his senior year on, Adam began performing at events like Austin’s Freedom Fest.

“I started doing the escape stuff for the Fourth of July a year after I graduated high school, and ever since I’ve been doing it and making money and living the dream,” Adam said.

A straight jacket is displayed on the wall of Adam Perry’s living room, which he used to escape from on in early performances. Eric Johnson

Getting there

It’s clear from the beginning that Adam is serious about his craft. Step into the living room of his and Angela’s house and you’re suddenly transported to a time when Harry Houdini lived.

A Victorian atmosphere saturates the room from the walls to the furniture, and a variety of items that feel almost like a museum.

There is a display featuring the straight-jacket Adam escaped from in the parking lot of the Austin Municipal Swimming Pool, a replica set of old handcuffs and plenty of Houdini replica posters and images.

It sets the stage for Adam’s work, even though that work is still growing.

“I’m not as big as I want to be,” Adam said. “I don’t have as much stuff as I would like.”

For now, Adam’s magic is part time even though he performs plenty of shows throughout the year.  Earlier this year, he performed in Maryland, Chicago and Florida. His shows range from birthday parties for kids to corporate events and weddings.

But he has plans for Austin as well. Sometime down the line he wants to perform at the Historic Paramount Theatre, but these plans, just like this career, has one major drawback: funding.

“I would like to do it every day. That would be great,” Adam said. “It’s very expensive.”

From the equipment to the traveling, the art of magic comes with a price tag. It’s a major reason why Adam works on building his own illusions.

“Purchasing big boxes that do things is very expensive because you’re paying for performance rights,” Adam said. “There is a lot of stuff, it gets expensive.”

A renaissance

Adam is, in his own small way, contributing to what he sees as a renaissance in magic. As more shows like “America’s Got Talent” air, more people are showing off their talents. Copperfield led the way, but illusionists like David Blaine and Chris Angel have brought the art once again to the forefront.

Both of those figures have tons of fans and many detractors, but there is no denying the effect they’ve had on the profession.

“There’s a lot of kids that have now gone out and gone to a magic store or tried to buy a trick or book and read and doing things, which is great,” Adam said.

A number of years ago, Copperfeild stopped doing TV specials and stuck only to touring. Adam thinks that magic started struggling when this giant in the industry fell more out of the public’s eye.

“Magic was almost dead because Copperfield stopped doing TV specials,” Adam said. “When he still toured the world, people would go see him just because of who he is, not because of his magic. But because he’s David Copperfield.”

But with the resurgence in magic, Adam is seeing his own work gain some traction, and with that traction he’s able to deliver a distraction from real life and make people question their senses once again.

Adam Perry’s magic is primarily about taking people away from the events of the real world. Eric Johnson

World of magic

While creating illusion is work and a part-time job, it’s not how Adam views it.

Quite simply, Adam got pulled into this world because he’s a self-admitted nerd.

“I got pulled more to it because I’m a nerd and we nerds tend to have, ‘I want to be a superhero kind of mentality,’” he said. “We all go to Captain America and we’re like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that,’”

“I like the ability to do things other people can’t do,” he continued. I think it’s a challenge and I think it keeps me on my toes and ahead of the game.”

As Adam flashily shuffles cards or demonstrates escaping handcuffs, it’s clear he’s ahead of the game. Even demonstrating tricks to an audience of one, the struggle to identify the process is real and still leaves one confused as to how it’s done.

And that’s a very large part of it. Adam showed off one trick and the attention required to focus on what processes were used takes you from the real world to a world of fantasy. At that point Adam has you.

“Another big draw is I like to make people forget about real life,” Adam explains. “Everybody has hard times, but if I can make you forget about life for a little bit and go ‘wow, cool’ or make you feel like a kid again, that keeps me doing what I do.”

That goes double for skeptics. All performers, whether they’re entertainers or athletes, love a challenge and competition.

In Adam’s world of misdirection, it’s the skeptics.

“I love skeptics,” Adams says through a Cheshire Cat grin. “If I could have a room full of skeptics I would be happy, just because there is nothing better than having a bunch of people say, ‘This is all crap,’ and then having them walk out with a totally reversed attitude. It’s the best thing ever.”

Adam’s world of magic is a never-ending screen of distraction, whether it’s from life or his magic trick, and that comes down to making mistakes.

And in a way, the “art” of magic lends itself to a problem-solving tool.

“A good magicians should be able to know what you are doing — the trick inside and out and know other things,” Adam said. “If you are a good magician, you can get out of it and turn it around to your advantage to make it work. There’s always a way.”

Adapting performance

Adam isn’t reinventing the wheel with his tricks, but that’s not what he’s setting out to do.

Much of his magic is familiar, but his love of a challenge drives him to figurie out ways to alter those tricks, to put his own unique spin on them.

“I like to, as of late, take things that already exist and amplify it to what I need it to do,” he said. “I don’t create a lot of illusions for myself. I create effects, created by other magicians, and adapt them to what I do.”

With that train of thought comes a certain amount of confidence. In reality, arrogance. The profession demands it. A magician has to know he is better than the crowd he or she is performing in, otherwise the crowd is privy to his world and for a performer rooted in secrets, that’s just not good enough.

But that arrogance is a driving mode of thought, rather than a reflection on Adam himself.

“I have an arrogance, we all have it,” he explained. “You have to. You have to like yourself. You have to want to push yourself, you have to want to be the best you can and that goes for any entertainer. Magicians in general, yeah you have to have an air and an arrogance. If you don’t it won’t work. It’s a good arrogance.”

Revealing the trick

Adam lived in the Twin Cities for a number of years before moving back to Austin. In all of the time he’s been married, had two kids and now has the house the family has always wanted.

But family life isn’t going to be without magic anytime soon. Adam has new plans and always a reason to push forward.

“My goal is to live here, hunker down, bring it back,” Adam said. “I used to do stuff in Austin a lot and I want to push it out there to Austinites, push it out to Rochester, continue to do stuff in the Twin Cities and Mankato and all of the other towns I’ve been to and just travel.”

“The goal is to just keep doing what I love to do and make people entertained and happy,” he added.

Just don’t ask him how he did it.