Local magician to challenge tradition at Veishea

Cole Komma

A local magician will be attending this year’s Veishea not as bystander, but as a performer.

Nate Staniforth, Ames native and magician, will be performing in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union at 10 p.m. April 20 and at 1 a.m. April 21.

Staniforth’s passion started at a young age.

“For me, I was very young; I think I was 8 years old. I learned one magic trick. I learned to make a quarter disappear,” Staniforth said. “And for the first 4,000 times I practiced it, it didn’t look amazing. But for some reason I decided that I wanted to learn to make it look good, and I tried performing it at recess.”

The result of the performance could be heard throughout the playground as Staniforth’s friends screamed at the sight of his empty hand.

“They were so terrified because they’d never seen anything like that happen. So the teachers came over to see what was going on and I made the coin disappear for them, and they also started screaming,” Staniforth said. 

These reactions were not what Staniforth was expecting, but he would continue to do magic, as it soon became his passion in life.

“I feel like everybody has something. Whether it’s poetry or sports or music … everybody has something that turns you on and reminds you that you are alive. And once you’ve found your thing, you just have to chase it,” Staniforth said. 

Staniforth describes that day as a day when he learned a secret.

“But I didn’t know how to tell anybody,” Staniforth said. “There was something about that feeling of astonishment and mystery … and the only way I could share that with people is with magic tricks.”

Born and raised in Ames, Staniforth was the only magician in town for a while, taking the opportunity to perform whenever one arose.

“I started doing as many shows as I could,” Staniforth said. “That’s how you learn to be a performer. You can’t read about it, you can’t study it, you have to learn by doing.”

For years, Staniforth performed on the ISU campus and various venues around Ames, which helped hone his performing skills.

“It was more of a blessing than a curse. It was really hard to see magic shows in Ames because those acts just didn’t come through town,” Staniforth said. “So what that forced me to do was invent stuff on my own instead of copy other people that I saw.”

For five months of the year, Staniforth is at home developing his show. His inspiration does not come from other magicians, but rather, other arts.

“The place you don’t look for new ideas is in the world of magic,” Staniforth said. “[I] watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of speeches, look at artwork, look at poetry … sort of dive into the other arts and find what it is there that inspires you and try and let that guide the direction that the show is going instead of watching other magicians.”

The product of this isolation is a magic show that challenges the larger, Vegas-style shows of today.

“Every time get on stage, I have to spend the first third of my show killing that [stereotype] and get them to experience what I want them to experience,” Staniforth said.

As a child, Staniforth attended Veishea every year and is excited to perform in his hometown again.

“It’s amazing. I’m looking forward to it,” Staniforth said. “It’ll be the last show of my spring tour and I couldn’t ask for a better way to end it.”