Lincoln duo launches self-guided magic course online


JANET FREDERICKS AND Tom Verner perform in an orphanage in South India. Since the pandemic hit, the duo’s travel plans have all been canceled. While at home in Lincoln, they have created a 13 session video series on “Becoming a Magician.” This virtual course is available through local libraries and the Town Hall Theater.

TOM VERNER AND Janet Fredericks

TOM VERNER TEACHING “The Jumping Rubber Band Trick” to Ezra and Violet Roesch in Verner and Fredericks’ home in Lincoln on Halloween. Verner has been teaching Ezra magic for almost two years.
Magic amazes and amuses; it awakens hope that the impossible is possible. — Tom Verner

Have you ever watched the audience at a magic show? Everyone’s eyes are glued to the performers, their eyebrows are slightly furrowed, mouths agape and their bodies motionless as they try desperately to spot the “trick.” Then — poof! How did she do that? The audience sits back, laughs and relaxes into what we can only assume is magic.

Tom Verner and Janet Fredericks of Lincoln bring this kind of happiness all over the world. They are the founders of Magicians Without Borders and have traveled to over 45 countries bringing love, laughter, magic and hope to hundreds of thousands of refugee and orphan children in many of the most war-torn parts of the world. They have performed in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Burma and Bangladesh and many other countries where war or natural disaster have stranded people for decades in isolated, often desolate refugee camps or orphanages.

When the pandemic hit, the duo came back from performing on the Mexican border for asylum seekers. “We had a bunch of shows lined up, but they all got cancelled,” said Verner. “Then we all went into quarantine.”

So what were two traveling magicians to do?

They tried doing a live show on Zoom for the students of a friend in New York City. They got great feedback from the teachers and kids, but Verner “hated it… I don’t like performing for tiny postage-stamp-people.”

Instead of continuing with live performances they put together a 13-session magic course that is available to mostly libraries throughout New England.

“This course is an extension of our work with Magicians Without Borders,” Verner said. “People have always asked us about teaching magic and when the COVID pandemic limited our ability to travel to do our shows, we decided to develop this online, fun and easy-to-master lessons in magic through your library.” 

The program teaches students ages 8-100 enough magic to do a 30-minute performance and includes how to do the magic tricks as well as acting and storytelling skills to make performances entertaining and fun. The props needed for the course are ones most people already have at home or they can be purchased for a few dollars.

Patrons of the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury, Lincoln Library, Lawrence Memorial Library in Bristol, Russell Memorial Library in Monkton, Orwell Free Library, Starksboro Public Library, New Haven Community Library and Town Hall Theater have access to the “Become a Magician” content. 

“Town Hall Theater is thrilled to share Tom Verner’s magic course, free of charge, because we could all use a little levity this year,” said Lisa Mitchell, executive director of Town Hall Theater. “This is great fun for learners of all ages. Practicing magic is a happy pastime and skill that sparks joy.”

“Learning, practicing and performing magic is a fun way to develop self-confidence, focus, discipline and self-esteem,” Fredericks added. “We know how wonderful kids can feel when they perform magic. It would be wonderful if between now and the holidays kids could learn a 30-minute magic show to perform for their family.”

“Magic is the universal language” Verner said. “In our experiences around the world, very few people in the audience spoke English and yet they understood magic. I was amazed. Magic amazes and amuses; it awakens hope that the impossible is possible. We’ve seen that hundreds of times, even from people who are in desperate situations.”

So, why not “become a magician?” Grab your bed-sheet cape, a lovely co-magician and get to work learning the age-old tricks that’ll bring a little hope and happiness to your COVID-circles this holiday season. 

To learn more about Magicians Without Borders visit magicianswithoutborders.com. To find out how to bring the Become a Magician program to a local library, go to themagiccirclecenter.com for more information or call 802-453-5425.

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