Magical Origins, Magical Transformations

Dear Friends,
After more than 20 years in public broadcasting, Arun Rath has done just about everything. On the radio side, he has been the director, editor, reporter, and host for numerous programs. On the television side, his reporting and producing duties have taken him from Kazakhstan to Guantanamo Bay. His work has been recognized with a Peabody award, a National Press Club award, and in 2020 he was named “Best Radio Personality in Boston.” On the magic side, he’s a passionate amateur who studies at McBride’s Magic & Mystery School, and takes private lessons with Jeff McBride.

Magical Origins
Last year in a class at Magic & Mystery School, we were asked to reflect on our magical ‘origin story,’ and I was at a loss. Most magicians seem to have stories of when they were bitten by the magic bug, having some kind of epiphany when they saw a relative vanish a coin, seeing a big illusion show, or getting their first magic set. I did pursue magic as a hobbyist as a young man, but the simple truth is, I felt no calling. By my early 20’s I was done with magic – or so I thought.
Over a decade later, my son Arjun demanded I put on a magic show for his fifth birthday party–not that I should hire a magician, but quite specifically that I should put on a show. He didn’t throw a fit or make the request in anything other than the most adorable manner, but he was adamant, and irresistible. On a trip to Las Vegas, I spent some hours in the Denny and Lee magic shop with two young men who helped me put together my act from scratch. I later learned that one of them was Bizzaro – and that’s when I got hooked.
My parents had retired to Las Vegas, and every time I visited them I would go back to Denny and Lee’s, often bumping into big names, (and often not realizing they were big names) and listening to a lot of stories. Some of those stories were so interesting that I had to pursue them as a journalist, and it was when researching a story about intellectual property theft in magic, that I was first brought into contact with McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
I interviewed Jeff McBride at the school, and then met and interviewed Eugene Burger and Larry Hass at a Wonderground show. We talked about the IP issue, and I got the information needed for the piece, but each conversation grew and touched on the deeper meaning of magic. I started to plan trips to Vegas around Wonderground shows, looking forward to talking with Jeff, Eugene, and Larry as much as seeing the incredible, cutting-edge magic. The hook was set deeper.

Magical Development
I only did two shows a year, (our daughter Mira soon got in on the act), but I would build a unique show each time for each child. By the time the pandemic rolled in, I had almost ten years of these performances under my belt – performances of increasing sophistication, as the kids grew older and more demanding, and as I improved. I started re-reading a book Larry gave me back in 2012, the title apt in this context: Transformations. The strange thing is that the pandemic didn’t give me more time for magic and reading. If anything, I was working more hours than ever while doing radio broadcasts from home.
Looking back, it seems incredible that I was able to cram so much magic into these past couple of years. I was able to pull it off for two simple reasons: my magic friends and the Magic & Mystery School community fed my soul, and helped me get through the madness, and the support of my family, especially my wife Raney, who could see how much it fed my soul.
While it didn’t create more time, the pandemic did create the opportunity to take Magic & Mystery School classes over Zoom, and then attend the online Magic & Meaning conference. A year after that conference, I had gone from performing ‘standard’ tricks, to writing my own scripts with stories and original presentations, and it was time for the next level of education. I started private lessons with Jeff McBride himself.  
I figured out early on that as a working journalist and a public figure, my stage ‘character’ was always going to be a version of me. The magic (and boy, did this feel like magic) let me develop the best version of myself – the most interesting, accessible, compassionate and loving version of myself. The process also made me a better broadcaster and radio host in every way possible. In It Together became a phenomenon, and I was named “Best Radio Personality in Boston.” I have no doubt that my magical work was an essential factor in that happening.

Becoming a Magician

I don’t want to overuse an overused word, but when it comes to magic study and performance, things really did come together like magic in the second half of last year. The positive thinking axiom “if you put in the work, opportunities will present themselves” proved true, as I was invited to deliver a talk at the Second Annual Inclusivity and Diversity in Magic Conference. 

Not long after that, Felice Ling, one of the organizers of the conference, invited me to perform at the Boston Magic Lab, a venue for cutting-edge original magic – my first real gig! In her introduction, the emcee told my magic origin story, and introduced my son Arjun, now 16, who was sitting in the front row. I decided to use him as the subject in my mentalism routine, and it was a triumph. The audience adored it, and in the words of another magician who watched, my son looked at me “with a combination of love and astonishment.”

I can’t imagine a greater gift. 

Arun Rath

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