This Presidents Day, Monday, Dave Thomen of D's Magic will host a special performance at the Carroll Arts Center, celebrating the country's heritage and the importance of diversity. Thomen said he's always wanted to share important messages through his shows, and the topic seems particularly vital at this point in time.
"I'm a film believer in the importance of diversity in our lives," Thomen said. "And given the tone of our country, the topic really came home to heart for me."
Thomen said the topic will come up through his comedy and illusions. One of his illusions results in the appearance of the American flag, which Thomen said will lead into a discussion about what the colors of the flag stand for, from red for courage, to white for purity and blue for justice.
Another flag-based illusion, Thomen said, involves four strands of rope — each representing one of the four colors of the Maryland flag — being joined into a single knot.
"When we talk about those four colors, and those four separate pieces of rope, you realize that they're the same even though they look different," Thomen said. "We may have blond hair, black hair or in my case no hair at all, we all have differences, and we have different backgrounds and it's important to celebrate that."
Thomen said it can be a challenge to tailor the message to the wide range of audience members who come out for the show. With magic lovers ranging in age from "3 to 13 to 83," he said it's a balancing act to make sure it's digestible for the younger children while still being interesting for the older kids.
"I tend to keep it simple so the younger kids are understanding the show, while for the older children it's maybe reemphasizing things they already know," Thomen said. "Hopefully they'll start teaching it to their younger siblings. The best way to learn something is to teach it."
According to Thomen, magic is uniquely suited to spawn these discussions because of the audience engagement that is required for a magic show to succeed as well as the surprises which keep the show moving throughout. He said that because children are active participants in the show, they are more likely to be invested and involved with the topics at hand.
"It's interactive and the surprises keep children engaged," Thomen said. "If you give them some positive messages, they will hopefully leave that theater saying, 'Wow, that's something we understand now.' I'm hoping in the evening, the kids will remember something at the dinner table and mom use that opportunity to carry on the conversation."
Thomen's first-ever magic show at the Carroll Arts Center was a Presidents Day show in 2010. This is his first time back on this particular holiday, which led to the show being named "Just Another Magic Monday," he said.
Though designed for children, Thomen said there is plenty in the show for families to enjoy. He said he likes to imbue his comedy with some sly irony to make the parents laugh in between the illusions meant to impress the younger viewers.
Thomen said magic can easily find its way into your soul. He said he still remembers seeing the magician Harry Blackstone Jr. in the 1970s, and having that show instantly set the course for the rest of his life.
"That was the beginning of my long track to becoming a magician," Thomen said. "My career decision was made while I was still a tween."