Lesson of the Day: ‘What if They Could Make the Pandemic Go Poof?’

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Lesson of the Day: ‘What if They Could Make the Pandemic Go Poof?’

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “What if They Could Make the Pandemic Go Poof?” by Kenneth Sturtz

“As the coronavirus snuffed out live entertainment, magicians, like so many others, have been forced to adapt, trading traditional in-person performances for virtual shows. The shift has been particularly jarring for people of this specialty, who’ve long argued that magic is best experienced in person,” writes Kenneth Sturtz.

In this lesson, you will learn more about the world of magic and how magicians are creatively adapting to the pandemic. In a Going Further activity, you will learn to perform a magic trick.

Do you like magic? Have you ever seen a magic show in person? Do you have a favorite magician or magic trick?

Since the pandemic began, many in the live entertainment industry like magicians have had to come up with new and creative ways to reach and dazzle audiences. Watch this short video featured in the article, demonstrating how magicians are adapting to the crisis. Then respond to the following prompts:

  • What’s your reaction to the video? Were you wowed or surprised by the reveal?

  • What questions do you have about the tricks performed in the video or magic in general?

  • What do you think might be the challenges — and opportunities — for magicians during the pandemic?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. The article begins: “It was a Sunday evening, and Ken Scott’s audience was spellbound. Parents and children were oohing and ahhing as he delivered a string of miracles.” What was different about this magic show than those performed by Mr. Scott in the past? Why was it “especially impressive,” according to the writer?

2. Stephen Bargatze, the president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, said that “it’s a scary, scary time right now” for his members. How does the article bear out his claim? How has the pandemic affected magicians, personally and professionally?

3. Why does Garrett Thomas say, “Magic is meant to be experienced.” Do you agree? What is missing in virtual performances, for many of the magicians featured in the article?

4. How have magicians been forced to adapt from traditional in-person performances during the pandemic? Give three examples from the article.

5. The article concludes:

Though they can’t perform the ultimate trick of making the coronavirus disappear, magicians hope and expect there’ll be a significant amount of pent-up demand for their trade after the pandemic fades.

“Magic thrives when people are at their worst because people at their worst need hope,” Mr. Farquhar said. “And that’s what magic is.”

Do you agree that magic gives people hope? What do you think is the secret of success for magic? Why do you think audiences young and old, and across the globe, have delighted in it throughout the ages?

6. What is your reaction to the article? Does it make you understand and empathize with the challenges of live entertainers during the pandemic? Does it make you more interested in magic? Would you want to participate in one of the virtual shows of one of the featured magicians? Why or why not?

Option 1: Share Your Experiences and Opinions.

Choose one or more of the following writing prompts:

  • Are you a fan of magic? Do you ever perform tricks yourself? Share a memorable experience you have had with magic.

  • Watch at least one minute of the other six videos in the article: Which magician and performance did you find most impressive or engaging? What kinds of magic are you most drawn to — such as card tricks, sleight-of hand, illusionist and street magic? Explain why.

  • Who do you think is the greatest magician of all time? David Blaine, Penn and Teller, Criss Angel, Houdini? What do you think is the greatest magic trick?

To help answer these questions, you might browse the Times’s Magic and Magicians topic page, or take a look at these videos: Top 10 Greatest Magicians, 10 Greatest Magic Tricks Ever Performed and Top 10 Craziest Magic Tricks Ever Performed.

Option 2: Learn and Perform Your Own Magic Trick.

Have you ever wished to dazzle friends and family with magic but were too afraid to try? Did you ever try to pull off some sleight-of-hand and flop miserably? Fear not, you can learn magic too.

Alexander Boyce, featured in the article, offers a fun, easy magic trick in the video above that requires no special props or fancy sleight-of-hand. Take some time to watch, learn and practice the trick and then try it with your friends.

For other magic trick options, read this 2019 Times article by Ian Frisch, “How to Do 2 Simple Magic Tricks — and Why You Should Learn Them” or watch some of these videos: “3 EASY Card Tricks You Can Learn In 5 MINUTES!!!,” “10 IMPOSSIBLE Coin Tricks Anyone Can Do | Revealed,” or “Easy Magic Tricks Anyone Can Do!

Afterward, reflect on the experience: How difficult was it to master the new trick? What was fun about learning it? How did your audience react to your trick? What could you do to enhance your performance?

If inspired, film a performance of your magic trick and post it on social media or share with your class.


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