This article originally appeared in Volume I, Issue III of StoryBoard Memphis Quarterly in July 2022.
One of the best kept secrets in Memphis is a historic venue that hosts magic shows regularly throughout the year.
The Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum, located in a beautiful Victorian mansion at 680 Adams Avenue, offers tours during the day, event venue rentals, and haunted tours as well. This is where magician Jeffrey Day performs most of his magic, and where I assist him.
When you think about an event with a magician for hire, you might imagine a kid’s birthday party, but actually, many magicians today perform mostly for adults. You also may envision the magician as a man, but there are also many female magicians, like myself.
In order to perform magic that looks effortless, magicians like Day practice daily. In addition to practicing at home, magic clubs are a great place to work on their tricks. Since 1936, Ring 16 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians has been a club where Memphis area magicians come together to work on their magic. They host meetings the first Tuesday of each month. It is a great place for those who are interested in learning how to do magic. Some doctors, lawyers, and other professionals like to perform magic as a hobby. They are comfortable performing only for their friends and family. Jeffrey calls them, “closet magicians.” Other magicians in the local club perform professionally, and each magician has their own style; a catalog of tricks that they like to perform.
Day is one of a handful of magicians around the world who perform historic magic shows. His show, “The Mesmerist,” premiered January 19, 2019, to a sold out crowd.
When coming up with a show like “The Mesmerist,” Day combines his knowledge of music, magic, and performance arts. A music major in college, he understands the importance of selecting the right music for each trick. By setting the stage with magic props in this historic venue, he gives his audience the first impression of what they may witness. From his years on the stage singing in operas, he has developed his magic so that it feels more like a performance than a trick.
The audience brings their own form of energy to each show. Sometimes when finishing a trick, you get stunned silence, other times you get loud gasps and thunderous applause.
Day relies mainly on books to learn new material. He even enjoys the challenge of taking a magic trick found in a child’s magic book and turning it into a new trick for adults. A decade or so ago, he discovered some old magic manuscripts and decided to work on performing historic magic shows. He currently performs three different shows at the Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum. “The Mesmerist” is a historic magic show from “The Golden Age of Magic” that is performed in the ballroom. You may witness mind reading, floating objects, and some of the oldest magic tricks in the world. The second show, called “The Magic Basement,” is a close-up show performed in the mansion’s basement. The most recent show, “Magic: Past and Present,” is held in the carriage house. It showcases tricks that marry the PAST with the PRESENT.
You can find his upcoming shows here.
This article is part of the Behind the Arts Writers Workshop, made possible by an Arts Build Communities grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission and administered by ArtsMemphis.
Kathy Kalagias is the Director of Communications at a local Country Club, where she combines her passions in writing, photography, and art. Since August of 2015, she has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and works as a Magician’s Assistant. In her free time, Kathy paints full wall murals, including the wings on LBOE (Last Burger On Earth), and a tabletop for Mellow Mushroom in Germantown.