Performing professionally as Dennis Blacksmith (my name Kowal translated into English) since I was eleven, I’ve been dedicated to the field of magic steadily for all my years. I put myself through college performing up to four shows a day on weekends and saved enough money to buy a Victorian House on the National Register for Historic Places when I got married. Until his death, my father and I attended all the magic conventions and two International Brotherhood of Magician’s ( I.B.M.) Ring meetings a month; learning first hand from lectures by Ali Bongo, Slydini, and Anverdi.
My father and I founded I.B.M. Ring 200 which had as a member a young David Copperfield as well as the inventor of "The Fastest Trick in the World", Al Delage. My father raised doves and sold them to magicians (our doves are featured in the Copperfield Slide Show about his history and growing up magically) and my father encouraged me in my art.
I perform around the world when not running my successful architectural practice or doing motivational speaking. I am past Vice President of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians and won the "Most Outstanding Junior Magician of the Eastern Coast" Award from M.A.E.S. when I was fourteen. My creative shows have been featured in the center court of shopping malls as well as famous New York City Theatres and were custom designed and built: "Star Spangled Magic", Punch & Judy, "Storybook Magic", Alakazam Magic Show, "Professor Gizmo's magical Journey", The Cat in the Hat Magic Show, "The Magic Circus" and "Out of my Mind". I am a popular speaker on inventing and designing magic effects and have lectured in the US and Europe. My favorite invention was converting a dollar store dancing flower into a kazoo-controlled hindu rope and rising card effect. My favorite show was in Norway when I realized the same props I had used since I was eleven had accompanied me and propelled me all the way to this performance in a new country on a world stage. My favorite effect is my own torn and restored signed card and story which has brought both amazement and tears to my audience.
But all of this was merely preparation. At a FCM conference where I hosted the Heritage Night performance, I was asked by a Christian Ministry in attendance to accompany them to Cuba. Of the 700 magicians attending that conference that week, I wondered why they only asked me. It seemed that there were much better choices from professionals who were extremely talented. My friend Peter was incredibly funny and much better. My friend Toby had big illusions with sound, lights and smoke. My friend Mark had perfect timing and wonderful routining.
But I have been traveling with Caring Partners International around the world ever since and I finally realized “why me?”. It was exactly because I wasn’t those that I so esteemed. I go to places that sometimes need two sequential translators because the dialect is so remote. Peter’s jokes which are a play on words simply would not work. I’ve traveled three hours up to a base of an active volcano to perform to a shoeless village. There was no power for Toby’s lighting or music. I’ve had to stand on the top of a Range Rover to perform and be seen when surrounded by a thousand curious students in South Africa, Mark’s timing would be all off. God called me because I had learned to be adaptable; performing at all those outdoor corporate picnics, using simple effects with large and colorful impact to compete with the distractions of a carnival, and relying on the clown within me to ham it up without words when necessary. God didn’t need an award-winning magician like I had previously assumed, just somebody who was adaptable and truly enjoyed people. The magic became a tool to love others. People weren’t an “audience” to make me look good, I was there to meet their needs. So when something didn’t work, we laughed it off together. When it was so humid in Thailand that the simplest clothing would soak, I performed a stage show barefoot to at least feel the cool tiles. And when I fumbled reading a tract in Spanish, I let the children correct my pronunciation and they became the important helper (a tactic that I continued to use…I never could pronounce that tract correctly without them!)
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t promote incompetence in performance. My equipment and my performances are well rehearsed and designed to meet anyone’s standards. In fact, I keep inventing new effects like my Magical Dental Show which presents the Gospel and teaches oral hygiene. But after the show, I can be found holding the hands of patients who are having teeth removed without Novocain. My wife, Susan, serves along my side both in performances and by running the pharmacy. There is no greater joy than working with a spouse in ministry. Remember that shoeless village? Susan somehow managed to find a pick-up truck full of new shoes and bought the lot and shoed every child in that village. We also funded their first “head start program” (breakfast with pre-school) and today the school has grown to multiple classes, uniforms and yes, “shoes”! I’ll never forget my sweet and generous wife sitting in the sun and making balloon animals for an endless line of children when I, in horror, watched her use an indelible Sharpie marker to start putting a big “X” on their hands (in a country with no soap and water!). It turns out, even the sweetest person has limits as she realized the kids were taking the balloons to a stash in their huts and getting in line over and over again.
The Order of Merlin Excalibur award marks fifty continuous years of dedication to the art of magic through membership in the I.B.M. I thank God for giving me a talent to serve Him which has had such enormous impact and benefit to my own life.
Dennis Kowal Blacksmith