Using his hands to create "magic" that brings joy to his audience is Rodney Biggert's reason for fine-tuning his craft.
Biggert, adult services coordinator for Seneca County Opportunity Center, also is a magician.
"It's that look; that suspension of disbelief," he said. "It's about entertaining people first. It's about that look of awe."
PHOTO BY ROB LEDWEDGE
Cups are among the props used by Rodney Biggert during his magic shows.
Although he's often a performer, Biggert said he sometimes uses magic to connect with people, sometimes even the people with disabilities he serves.
"To bring somebody out of their shell, relieve tension, build rapport in a relationship," he said. "There's a lot of really good stuff that can come out of it."
When he became interested in magic, Biggert was a student at the University of Toledo studying psychology and pre-med.
"I've dabbled in every area of magic," he said.
A Houdini poster hangs on his office wall, and he said he's done some Houdini-like illusions by being tied up in a box with an assistant to aid him, and some escapes from handcuffs.
But his favorite types are mentalism and close-up sleight of hand.
"There a whole branch of magic that's called mentalism," Biggert said. "The mentalism subset is probably my favorite. Unfortunately, it's also the least popular."
Finding groups who want to hire him to do "mental magic" is difficult, but because of his background in psychology, he's interested in the psychological principles involved.
As a college student he was a member of the National Honor Society for psychology students. As a fundraiser for the group he performed a "mental magic" show and lecture on the subject.
"We sold tickets and rented the hall," he said. "It was extremely nerve-wracking, but we had 175 people."
That was his first performance.
"I'm incredibly passionate about all of it - the history and everything," Biggert said. "Wars have been averted because of magic tricks. If you study it, it's really fascinating."
"I have this thirst for knowledge and to learn all I can about this thing that I'm passionate about," he said. "It's one of the oldest forms of entertainment, except maybe theater and standup comedy. The entertainment value being entirely dependent on performers.
"For the most part it's just you," he said. "It has enhanced my ability to be a public speaker. I was always outgoing, but it has enhanced my ability to improvise."
Biggert said magic is something almost anybody can learn as a skill.
"But if they're going to become a performer, they have to learn about people," he said. "It's different from any other form of entertainment. It's more participatory. You pull somebody from the audience and they can actually become a part of the show.
He never uses "plants" placed in the audience to be chosen to be on stage.
"I read a lot of books and it takes a lot of practice," he said. "I spend my downtime practicing. What little down time you have with a 2-year-old."
"It's all about practicing a technique over and over again," he said, such as thinking about one thing while doing another and working on the technical aspects of shuffling a deck of cards.
"I use a lot of spare time in multi-tasking to perfect my show," he said. "My show is scripted. I write a script, but the script is very loose because I have to be able to change what I say or do.
"It's a piece of art. It's a piece of theater," he said. "I am free to scrap the script entirely at some points."
If one part the show takes a lot longer than usual, he might skip another trick.
"There's a lot of time management that goes into the midst of the show, depending on the audience," he said.
Biggert performs at traditional birthday parties, and at company Christmas parties, Camp Fire Christmas programs, Tiffin Community Hospice, Family Fun Fest at the YMCA and other events sponsored by organizations.
"I've done some larger shows and some smaller shows," he said. "There's such a wealth of different things you can do.
"I did a Halloween-themed wedding," he said. "They were looking for a very unique form of entertainment."
He said magic shows can fit almost any occasion.
"It's highly charged comically. It's not I beat you or I bettered you," he said. "Everybody's laughing. It's not an adversarial relationship.
"I kind of get to play different characters, if you will," he said. "I can be the con artist card shark and do a gambling-oriented program and show how magic can be use to cheat at cards. Many card magicians got their start as card cheats."
He performs about once a month, but would like to do more.
For more information, contact him at