If you ask this character for one of his business cards he’ll pull out one of the three of four decks of playing cards just hanging out in his deep magician’s pocket and a magic marker (of course) to write his digits down in between the numbers and suit symbols.
This weekend at the Prince George Farmer’s Market, where Craig McKee set up shop next to the vendor’s tents and threw around balls and pins, told jokes and did card tricks (fire wasn’t allowed) just for the heck of it, he hatted 45 bucks. He said it was more than some of the vendors did all day, just from procuring the enjoyment from passersby who tossed a quarter or a loonie into his overturned magician’s top hat in jest.
If he had been wearing the hat, not only would he have lacked a pot in which to receive these kind donations, he would have been covering his hair which, from an aesthetics point-of-view, is part of his act; partially dyed a color to suit his fancy on a daily basis, as whim dictates. Just like his gig.
His performance varies based on what the audience wants to see and what he is allowed to do at a given place and time. He’ll do everything from close-up magic to parlor magic, for kids’ birthday parties, corporate engagements and street impromptu performances that are arguably his favorite.
“You never know what kind of reaction you’re going to get from people if you walk up to them and say you want to do a card trick for them. Some think you want something from them and say no thank you’ and others will go along with it. Here, in Prince George, people like to keep to themselves, so it doesn’t always go over well, but whenever I can brighten up someone’s day just a bit it really does it for me,” said Craig.
He has learned that it’s easy enough to make kids smile with a quick magic trick, but it’s the adults who think what he does is kids’ stuff who end up getting really into figuring out some of his tricks that make it worth his while.
The young magician got his start in the early 90s when his dad gave him a juggling book for Christmas. It sat unopened for months and then one summer day out of boredom he picked it up, read the book from cover to cover, and his passion for magic snowballed from there.
He learned as many tricks as he could stuff up his sleeves and used his cat as a stand-in rabbit where he could, although he didn’t attempt to take the “evil cat who attacks anything under three feet or over three feet” with him.
Craig taught himself how to breathe, swing (poi) and throw fire, studying for two years and getting advice and lessons from performers who passed through the city, before he ever lit up.
“It’s spectacular but dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. When I perform on the street I disguise the products I’m using in a rootbeer can or something because I don’t want kids going home and trying anything out,” said Craig.
He has performed for birthday parties, whenever he can score a gig, at Telus and Clarica engagements, churches and at Children’s Fest.
The Grade 12 drama student who attends D.P. Todd has also taken things into his own hands ever since the annual drama zones were canceled because of the teachers’ job action. “I thought, we need an outlet for drama in this city because there is no time or spot for drama students to have access to, so I created a festival,” said Craig.
On May 25 and 26 at Vanier Hall people can come enjoy a range of comedy that spans Othello and Antony and Cleopatra to Monty Python and a hockey version of Who’s on First? Tickets are $5 for everyone at the door and the show starts at 7 p.m.
To contact Craig McKee and find out more about what he can do or book him for a gig, call 562-6745.