In his living room, Hart Keene has seven decks of Bicycle playing cards on his coffee table. The living room walls have four sets of playing cards tiled and framed, the centerpiece of the room is a framed Eugene Weekly entitled “The Tricksters” that he is pictured on. This entertainer’s intricacy for detail is shown when he speaks about his craft, so much that a basic turkey sandwich takes 38 minutes to make when explaining the business of show business.
Hart Keene is a magician in Eugene.
To be more specific, Keene is known as a strolling sleight of hand performer. A strolling sleight of hand performer will execute his or her illusions in an intimate environment. The setting can be a small cafe or a huge corporate event.
“If your not comfortable going up to the table starting the conversation and just carrying it, you’re probably in the wrong business. You should be a goodwill ambassador for the business,” said Keene
The performer will come to the table provide some conversation, wow the table with an illusion or two and move to the next group. This type of magic is memorable because it happens just inches from the audiences face. However, these illusions take well-seasoned skill and a flexible personality. His last profession, a boat salesman, is helpful when dealing with magic naysayers.
“You don’t want to be a challenge type person, which is why I use self deprecating humor here and there.”
Keene has been practicing using prestidigitation illusions for over a decade now. Prestidigitation, also known as sleight of had, is the skill of performing magic or conjuring tricks with the hands only. His masterful illusions landed him on the television show Americas Got Talent.
“I had to build up what I call performance classis. You have to keep doing it to get better at it, so you can do any trick and give the audience a mind-blowing illusion.”
Keene points out that he is not a prop-magician. A prop-magician will use a large device on stage in his act to create the magic. This would be like the assistant being sawed in half trick. The assistant is doing all the work inside the box. This turns the magician into a middleman of magic.
“Magic is a powerful form of entertainment because the audience is experiencing it live but also experiencing impossible things that they didn’t think were possible.”
Keene with a crisp snap of his fingers can change a handful of dollar bills into fist full of hundreds. Keene then tells his audience that due to the counterfeiting laws, he has to change the now Benjamins back to Washingtons. Keene can do this illusion and have no one at the table understand how he did it.
“I use sleight of hand and mentalism to trick the minds of my audience,” said keene.
Mentalism is when the audience is under the impression the magician can read their minds. Keene can pull out a deck of unopened cards, ask someone to call out one card in the deck, snap his fingers, open the pack of cards, the called out card will be face up on the top of the deck, and POOF he is off to the next table.
“In times like these, when the economy is in the place it is in, that is when people need magic the most. They need to believe in the impossible,” said Keene.