Jim Snack used to do magic to make a living. Now he does it for the sheer joy.
A certified speaking professional who specializes in employee motivation and engagement, Snack will be performing his first love, magic, at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre on Thursday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. His presentation is part of a weeklong schedule of family-friendly activities at Steamer No. 10 called “April Vacation Daze.”
A native of Columbia County and a graduate of Hudson High School, Snack performed magic for nearly 20 years all around upstate New York before he changed gears and moved to the field of motivational speaking.
Now 60, he has spent much of the past two decades speaking all over the country and has been recognized by Sharing Ideas Magazine as its “Consummate Speaker of the Year.” He is also a member of the National Speakers Association and past president of the Hudson-Mohawk Chapter of the American Society of Training and Development.
Magician Jim Snack
WHERE: Steamer No. 10 Theatre, 500 Western Ave., Albany
WHEN: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 438-5503, www.steamer10theatre.org
A theater major at the University of Albany, where he also got a master’s in communication, he won the McNally Award for outstanding teaching at UAlbany for his work with graduate students in the Department of Communication.
Snack and his wife of 25 years live in Averill Park and have a daughter.
Also on tap this week at Steamer No. 10 will be Casey Carle’s BubbleMania from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday. The rest of the week includes Tanglewood Marionettes: Arabian Adventure on Tuesday, Roger the Jester on Wednesday, Snack on Thursday and The Gizmo Guys: Jugglers Extraordinaire on Friday. All shows begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 1 p.m.
Q: Why are you still performing magic shows?
A: I did it for 20 years and made a living at it, typically within a 200-mile radius of the Albany area. I’ve always loved it and I still love it, especially doing it for children. They still have this sense of wonder about things, and they remind me to keep that same sense of wonder myself. There comes a time when kids maybe realize that there is some mythology involved in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and they come up to me and ask me, “is magic real?” I always tell them, “yes, but it’s very rare.”
Q: When did you get interested in becoming a magician?
A: The story I love to tell is how when I was a kid I was at Palisades Park in New Jersey a magician made my head disappear. I was about 8 and very scared, but being inside the box I saw how it worked and my total fear turned to wonder and amazement. My head was gone, but I was inside this really cool box. I was captivated.
Q: What kind of magic tricks do you perform?
A: I pretty much do the same classic magical tricks that have been performed for thousands of years. Things like the Chinese linking rings, and the sleight-of-hand egg trick made famous by Max Malini, the great Australian sleight-of-hand artist. He traveled around the world performing in front of kings and queens, in front of four U.S. presidents, and he did it all with the things he carried in his pocket. They were just everyday objects, and he just relied on his skill.
Q: Why did you change careers?
A: I had done some teaching at UAlbany and when I stopped I realized that I really missed it. A lot of my magic career was done in schools promoting reading and other topics. I figured out that what I loved most about performing and entertaining people was teaching. It took me about five years before the bulk of my income was from speaking and training and not magic.
Q: Do you incorporate any of your magic skills into your motivational speeches?
A: In a typical hour-long program like I had at The Desmond the other day — it was a leadership forum — I put in three of my magic routines. I tell people that in a seven-hour program I’ll put in seven minutes of magic. I do it for a couple of reasons. I use it early in the program to catch their attention, it breaks down a wall between me and the people there who are maybe hesitant to be at a training session, and I’ll use the magic to segue to a another point I’m making, and it makes the point memorable.
Q: Why does magic remain so popular?
A: Magic is an experience that transcends the ordinary everyday experience. It goes above and beyond what we typically experience. It makes all of us stop and feel that sense of wonder.