Joe Culpepper first felt the magnetic pull of magic at 14, when the boy who would become his best friend showed him a card trick and refused to tell him how he did it.
Culpepper went to the local magic store, Grand Illusions, in his native Sacramento, California, where owner Steve Johnson taught him a beginner-level card trick and promised to teach him more once he’d mastered it. The experience sparked a lifelong love of magic that would turn into a career as a magician, performance scholar and magic consultant.
“I was very lucky to encounter a magic shop whose staff weren’t just trying to sell me things to make a profit, but were interested in teaching me to advance from level to level and take it more seriously,” he says.
“My best friend and I performed at kids’ parties, and then we performed for adults. Eventually, as I got older, I started performing professionally.”
‘A spectacular display of high ability’
Culpepper, who jokingly self-identifies as a “circademic,” began an industrial postdoctoral fellowship through MITACS Elevate in January. With matching funding from Cirque du Soleil, he will spend two years developing three new hybrid circus-magic apparatus prototypes — circus apparatuses that in some way create a magic effect.
He’ll also be working with circus artists to create new performance vocabulary, like stage movements, that go with those apparatuses. “They’re new pieces of equipment, so they also require different movements than your standard circus apparatus,” Culpepper explains…
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