Last year, he (literally) put the judging panel under his spell with his personal charm and was named 2016 Mister WUT. Maciej Piskorz, a student of the Faculty of Geodesy and Cartography, talks about his passion and magical skills.
You have been an illusionist for a few years. You are known for your skills at the University. Last year you enchanted the judges during the Miss & Mister WUT Pageant and won. In a fortunate twist of fate, the theme of the Final Gala was the movie “Now You See Me”. Was it destiny?
It was a year after my term on the Student Council. My friends were holding a faculty-wide candidate selection for the pageant. They had few entries so I decided to help out and join in to encourage others to follow. As it happened, I won. And on top of that, during the first planning meeting with all Misses and Misters of the Faculties, I learned that stage magic will be the theme of the event! One of the Gala highlights is always a creative presentation when you appear in a self-designed outfit. To ensure that everyone can present themselves in an entertaining way during that illusionist show, I handed out my magic props and helped my mates prepare for their acts.
You came up on stage during this year’s pageant too.
As the tradition goes, I made an appearance during the Gala as the last year’s winner. I played a suspect interrogated by Sherlock and Watson who wanted to entrap me. Using my illusionist skills, I changed clothes several times on stage and freed myself from my bonds during the interrogation and did other tricks. My act followed the narrative of this year’s Gala, which had a detective theme, with a pinch of magic.
Illusions, performances to audiences… where did the idea come from? How did your adventure with magic start?
My scouting girl friends talked me into becoming an animator. I had been actively engaged with children during different games before and it was fun for me. Once my dad tried his hand at simple magic. He first showed me my first trick with a rope; he would wind the rope around his fingers very tightly and then the rope would slide down all his fingers with one snap. It got me intrigued. At the time, I didn’t even think about combining animation and illusionist acts. It was only a few years later that I decided to entertain children with my magical skills.
You say you perform to children but you dazzle adult audiences with your magic too. What’s more fun to you?
Children are very curious. They want to know how everything works. You have to be very careful not to give away anything to keep the secret. Adults are able to accept the fact that all that is an illusion and not magic. So when I perform them I try to wrap it all in an entertaining package to capture their attention. The secret is central to the illusionist’s craft. That’s the magic behind it. However, sometimes I do give my audiences a look behind the curtain.
During a show?
I do that chiefly for my friends. I usually teach them some simple tricks, just to give them a taste to take the bait. I’m happy if I can instill a passion for stage magic in others. I had cases where after I showed someone how to do a trick they started to dig into the subject and look for other magic tricks.
Come to that, how do you learn the tricks of the trade?
Book references, mainly in English, are the main source of professional knowledge. It’s good to mix with the illusionist community too. It allows you to learn from more experienced colleagues. And this is partly the aim of the meetups hosted by one of the Warsaw shops for illusionists and jugglers and intended for those who want to learn stage magic. Attending various types of training and seminars is also worthwhile. But I would recommend against learning from videos on YouTube. They are a common source for beginners. Unfortunately, you can get your fingers burned. It’s because many of those videos are made by straight amateurs who know one or two tricks and want to show off. In the era of social media, those videos go viral instantly stripping the magic art of its secrets. They spoil the fun for others.
Are there many such people out there? Can you feel a growing interest in magic tricks?
Yes, I can. Illusionists have been increasingly more appreciated. You can see that in talent shows such as “Got Talent”, for instance; the latest season finale featured my friend, Piotr Denisiuk (he conjured a hedgehog on stage in the season finale – editor’s note). I have kept track of the show in other countries and noticed that gradually, since the 10th season, contestants doing stage magic have been flooding in. I think Poland will be no different.
Are you going to take your chances on the show then?
Last year, I entered the casting for “Got Talent.” Next year, I’m planning to take part in auditions again. I have even started preparing a miniscript for my performance. I hope I’ll manage to enchant both the panel and the audience.
I have heard different opinions about how the things you do should be called properly. I know there are people who squirm at being called “magicians” and do not accept words such as “trick” or “magic trick”.
I don’t really care how members of the audience will call my acts. If someone says those are magic tricks, that’s great because it means they have found some magic in it. If they say it’s a trick, that’s fine by me, either. The issue of the name is a trifling matter to me; the key is the emotions brought out by the act such as surprise or joy.
Do you have your favorite trick?
I don’t have the one that I like best. I take a more general and holistic view on my acts. When I create a short act or a longer routine, I can tell my favorite moments. My shows are divided into parts such as tricks with ropes, tricks with cards and illusions involving larger objects. What I like is to perform with many props. The resulting mix created on stage by a combination of several props is the best part.
Last but not least: will you tell us how you distract your audiences during your performances?
I dance (laughs). But seriously, sometimes I deliberately show when I will be turning the attention away. The human brain is designed not to pay attention to details if you want it to see the whole picture and the other way round. You can check it for yourself. Go to the menu on your phone and try to show where the notes icon is intuitively, with your eyes closed. Okay, and now tell me what’s the time?
I have no idea. I haven’t noticed.
Exactly! Although you must have seen the time on your screen when you unlocked your phone, you haven’t noticed and don’t remember it. This is the mechanism I use on stage during my shows. This is how the magic works and this is how I trick my audience.