Smoke and Mirrors Magic Club: A peek into what’s behind the mystery
  • Vice president and Bienen/Weinberg junior Robert Justin Dresner delicately performs a magic trick using poker cards.
  • Chen and Dresner enjoy a conversation with club members.
  • Returning club member Weinberg sophomore Albert Cox and new member Weinberg freshman Cheng Jin pair up to discuss the lecture materials covered.
  • Gelb performs dashing cards in front of the camera.
  • Gelb, although only a new member at the club, has already gained the skill set to perform many magic tricks.
  • Co-founder of the club, Weinberg junior Thomas Grudzinski, talks to new members Weinberg freshmen Kyle Rockoff and Albert Li.
  • Chen performs another way of shuffling cards, an action that elicits cheers from club members.
  • McCormick sophomore Bill Lin, one of the club’s returning member, skillfully shuffle the deck of cards in his hands.
  • President and McCormick senior Jamie Chen watches Communication freshman Jonathan Gelb performing a coin trick, and then the two exchange ideas.
Photos by Missy Chen / North by Northwestern
Stepping into the first conference room on the third floor of Norris Student Center at 10 p.m. on Thursday, you may be surprised by what is happening between the walls. This room is where true magic happens – coins appear and disappear in the air and cards switch colors and suits at a blink of eyes.

This is where the members of the Smoke and Mirrors Magic club meet every week to practice magic tricks, or as they themselves would describe, to spend time with their second family.

The club, which now has thirteen members, was co-founded by McCormick senior Jamie Chen, Weinberg junior Thomas Grudzinski and Bienen/Weinberg junior Robert Justin Dresner, three young magicians who came together under one roof because of their shared enthusiasm about magic.

This quarter, as the club welcomes its second year, the executive board has expanded to accommodate all returning members, who meet up regularly to plan new lectures for each week, and to brainstorm interesting outings and meaningful events. One upcoming event is what the club is calliing “Open Magic Hours”. The club plans to set up tables at entrances of the library during finals week, where members would perform magic tricks per request. The magicians wish to use magic tricks as short distractions to relieve students’ stress and to put a smile on their faces.

Unlike last year, when some members adopted a lackadaisical attitude and barely showed up to club activities, this year all the members participate actively in weekly practices. This improvement was achieved through careful judgments in the audition process, during which only those who practiced enough to perform the magic tricks they were taught were chosen.

“We really emphasize the commitment.” Chen said.

The returning members have embraced the newly recruited members as part of their family. Albert Cox, a Weinberg sophomore who said the club was a very big part of his social life last year, has been excited to welcome new members. “I’m totally glad that we have more people this year, so we can keep giving that feeling I had to other people, and let them feel what I felt," Cox said.
GIF by Missy Chen

Magic performances, unlike those of a cappella groups or dance clubs, feature more individuality than group collaboration. Magicians usually perform solo, and the addition of other magicians can take away the mystery. Thus, it may seem unusual to create a student group that aggregates magic lovers.

This isn't the case with Smoke and Mirrors, whose members feel that having their group is quite essential to carry out an important mission – to “spread the fun of magic” across the campus.

Robert Wan, a Weinberg sophomore and a new member who joined in this fall, often performs the new tricks he learns for his two roommates right after each lectures “I show them what I learned, and blow their minds,” he said.

Chen, who is about to graduate in the upcoming summer, confessed that one of his main goals this year is to make sure that the club can continue after he graduates. He has been training more executives and giving others the opportunities to host club meetings and events.

Chen also has another five-year goal for the club: to put on a grand magic show on campus with an audience of at least 200 to 300 people. Although this dream has yet to be fulfilled, the magic in the conference room keeps on happening every single week.

Editor's note 1/14/16: Photo captions were updated to correctly identify Albert Li and Cheng Jin. NBN regrets this error.


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