Magician Dan White Brings His Famed Show Into Guests' Living Rooms for a Virtual Night of Mystery
White created his hour-long show The Magician Online that allows fans to participate via Zoom
Dan White wasn't about to let a pandemic stop him from entertaining people.
Best known for his show The Magician, which ran for more than 5 years at the NoMad Hotel in New York, White created a new virtual experience, bringing a night of magic, mystery and deception into families' living rooms around the world and captivating them over Zoom.
"The goal at the beginning was to create an experience that was as close to the live experience as we could possibly make it," White, 39, tells PEOPLE. "Obviously this was very difficult, and I spent months walking around the empty streets of New York trying to come up with a way for it to work. Finally, with the help of my amazing team, we were able to bring those ideas to life."
With a celeb fan base that includes Ariana Grande, Gwyneth Paltrow, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom, Reese Witherspoon and Kate Hudson, White performs four shows every weekend. Adapting to a virtual world meant shipping guests a physical box before each performance that contains important materials needed for the show and perfecting his Zoom prowess.
"Performing live is more of an auditory thing - you can hear how people react to everything," White explains. "In the virtual space it's more of a visual thing, as it's difficult for me to hear exactly how the entire crowd is reacting at one time. People can be jumping around, yelling in their house and I would have no idea. Seeing or hearing a crowd react with amazement is the best part of the job. It's what I'm there for."
Originally from Philadelphia, White was raised by his single, working mom, "so I had a lot of time alone," he says. "Like many other young kids, I was obsessed with comic books and superheroes."
He saw his first magic show when he was 10 years old. "I thought I was watching some sort of strange superhero," he adds. "My mom took me to a magic store on South Street and I would go back so often that I eventually pestered the owner to let me work there in return for teaching me magic. There I was mentored by a number of older magicians and was able to read all of the books I could find on the subject."
White says he was drawn to magic because of the secrets. "I think all of us inherently gravitate towards mystery, but a lot of people are disappointed when they learn the secrets to a magic trick," he says. "People who decide to perform magic actually find beauty in that simplicity. Honestly, I think I just wanted to find a way to make my friends think I was cool. Little did I know it had the opposite effect at the time!"
After consulting on-site in Las Vegas with master illusionist David Copperfield, White served as a creative consultant to Kanye West in 2014 for his Yeezus tour. The next year he worked alongside theory11 to create The Magician at The NoMad Hotel in New York.
"It wasn't until later in life that I realized I could actually make this a profession, I just knew that I loved it and I would do it regardless of whether or not I got paid to," he adds. "I had a bunch of 'real jobs' but when I was 23, I told my mom that I was going to try to be a magician for a year and if in that time I wasn't able to support myself, I would stop. My mom believed in me and somehow it all worked out."
Tickets for The Magician Online are $135 per household (up to four people). To participate, guests need a reliable internet connection and a computer with a camera and microphone to be seen and heard during the performance.
"My favorite is when someone comes up to me and tells me how a performance they saw affected them in their actual life," says White, who has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon 12 times. "People tell me stories about how - because of my show - they started to learn magic, or they had their first date at my show and are now married."
White is grateful his act "can take you out of your normal life. Unlike watching a movie at home or reading a book, you get to experience it with other people and share their energy," adds the magician, who counts Copperfield, David Blaine, Rod Sterling, Frank Sinatra and Orson Welles as his role-models. "Magic makes people happy - and I get to do that every day. What's not to love?"
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