Ever since he first saw a David Blaine television special in fourth grade, Clay Skaggs ’20 became hooked on magic. He said he immediately fell in love with magic’s ability to transform the world around him.
“What got me so interested was how you could change what you think is possible,” Skaggs said. “Even if it was just for a brief moment, you could change someone’s perception of reality and blur the line between what is real and not real, and between what is possible and what is impossible.”
For the first five years of his magic career, Skaggs relied on YouTube to teach himself tricks. All of this changed, however, once he was in ninth grade, Skaggs said.
“In ninth grade, through an audition process, I was able to get into the Magic Castle,” Skaggs said. “Since then, instead of using YouTube, I have been able to learn from mentors there and from lecturers they bring in, which has really helped expand my knowledge and skill.”
The Magic Castle is a members-only clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts, where one must audition in front of their membership reviewing committee in order to join.
For now, Skaggs said he is trying to perform as much as possible.
“I’m doing parties where I walk around and perform magic tricks,” Skaggs said. “I usually do adult parties, but I am trying to get into the bar mitzvah game. Also, I am going to start performing at the Magic Castle, hopefully within the next three or four months.”
Skaggs’ business manager and Chronicle Assistant Photo Editor Jay Lassiter ’20 said that he is working on getting Skaggs as much exposure as possible by running his website and social media platforms and by helping him book gigs.
“Being his manager gives me the opprotunity to make connections and network, which is really interesting to me,” Lassiter said. “I met with David Blaine’s manager, I talked to him for a while about what I should be doing and what I can get better at.”
Upper School Mathematics teacher Andy Stout said he was amazed by Skaggs’ magic tricks when he saw him perform in the library.
“He made things disappear from my hands,” Stout said. “It was unbelievable. [The show] was mind-blowing and all very professional.”
In addition to performing, Skaggs has also recently come out with his own magic trick.
“I just came out with my own original trick called Unleaded, which is a great trick to start with, since it’s very easy for beginners,” Skaggs said. “You can basically take the pencil lead out of the pencil and throw it back in, it’s extremely visual and [is now] released on the world’s largest magic site, Penguin Magic.”
Skaggs is also working on building connections between magic and community service. This summer, he will participate in Magicians Without Borders, which is a program that takes magicians to juvenile centers on the Mexican border, where they will teach and perform magic to the youth in the centers.
Another way Skaggs said he is bridging magic and service is through the development of a magic-based outreach program in collaboration with HW Works. The program will bring magicians from the Magic Castle to the Children’s Hospital, where they will perform for the children staying in the hospital.
Skaggs said he is aiming for the program to have an impact beyond himself.
“I want to try and help kids who are stuck in that type of situation feel happy,” Skaggs said. “Hopefully [the outreach program] will be able to live beyond me, and hopefully it will help cement a relationship between [Harvard-Westlake and the Children’s Hospital] that will last for many generations.”