Reading has been the magic word for the Ardmore Public Library this summer.
The library welcomed magician Stephen “Doc” Crawford Thursday for a magic and illusion show. The performance puts a cap on the live performances of the summer reading program, which began in June. The show, presented in an “old west” style, features Doc Crawford’s “special medicine” that allows him to perform the tricks and magic of the show. Crawford said the presentation of the act is customized to fit the theme of the library’s summer program.
“I love to get them excited and yelling and the libraries have themes every summer and so I work around their theme which is a lot of fun and I write a show based around their theme,” Crawford said.
Ardmore Public Library’s theme this year was based on health and fitness. Crawford’s show, in following the theme, presented the magician as a salesman for “Doc’s special medicine,” which would allow kids to perform various magic tricks.
Crawford, who started performing at libraries in high school after getting his driver’s license, has more than 40 years of entertainment experience from half-time show performances, opening for rock concerts, library events and state fairs. Crawford specializes in magic shows, illusions, hypnotism and escape arts, which feature Crawford escaping from daring and daunting situations.
“I’ve done everything from being dropped from a plane in a box to being chained up and thrown into a swimming pool,” he said.
One may ask, where does someone get the inspiration and knowledge to become a magician and escape artist. The answer for Crawford? The library.
“I actually learned my magic tricks out of library books,” he said. “I practiced with all the librarians as a kid and that’s how I got my start and I saw the movie ‘Houdini’ with Tony Curtis as a kid and that’s what inspired me.”
Crawford said that he hopes through his shows he not only makes children excited about the magic tricks, but excited for reading.
“I definitely want to promote reading,” he said. “But a lot of it is just making sure they enjoy themselves and learn something.”
From water tricks and “magic” rings to making a cube disappear, Crawford’s show strives to leave the audience in awe of the trick they’ve just seen. The children often cheer, applaud and vocally question how the tricks are performed and Crawford continuously keeps the children engaged with every disappearing and reappearing act.
Crawford, like many performers, saved the best trick for last.
Throughout the entire show Crawford promised the crowd he would launch a bunny rabbit into a bucket from across the room using a “cannon” that sat quietly in the corner, waiting to be ignited. When it came time for the moment of truth, the bunny was loaded into the cannon that was then lit with a flare. The bunny was sent “magically” toward the waiting bucket held by a volunteer from the crowd. When Crawford went to the bucket to ensure the bunny had made it, an unexpected animal awaited him.
“The tortoise has beaten the hare yet again,” Crawford proclaimed as he pulled a turtle from the bucket.
The children were in awe as they realized the rabbit had been “transported” to the container the volunteer had been sitting on during the entire stunt. Audience member Jackson Rider said the stunt was the highlight of the show.
“The bunny rabbit, the bunny rabbit,” Rider proclaimed when asked his favorite part of the show.
The rabbit offered no comment on the trick.
After a day of magic and illusions, Crawford said it is the happiness of the entire crowd that makes the performances special for him.
“I love the kids and bringing them joy and watching their smiles,” Crawford said. “I just love the kids.”