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September 7, 2017 The Hesston RecordSeptember 7, 2017 The Hesston Record

Magic A Family Affair

Posted 7/27/2017

By JAQUELYN NELSON
HESSTON RECORD STAFFDAN Dan The Magic Man entertained children and adults with his Three Little Pigs show July 21.DAN Dan The Magic Man entertained children and adults with his Three Little Pigs show July 21.

The Heath family has been traveling across Kansas, spreading magic and literacy as one of the only live entertainment acts for the Summer Reading Program.  In his 17th season, Dan Dan The Magic Man returned to Hesston on July 21 to wow audiences of all ages.

Dan Heath and his son, Patrick Heath, are the two stars of the traveling show.

“My wife and I are both teachers at Great Bend high school, so this is a summer gig. We’re committed to literacy and kids that don’t read during the summer get that brain drain. This creates a little excitement,” said Dan. 

Each year, the performers build their show around the national Summer Reading Program theme - this year it is Build A Better World.

“Since this year it was building, my first thought was The Three Little Pigs, and I already had the straw coming out of the bag gag. It started there and expanded,” he said.

Dan dug through is cabinet of tricks and found elements that would fit the theme and progress a storyline in the show.

“I love having a show that has a narrative clear through.  I look and ask ‘How can I make this carry through’ and see what magic I can adapt. I knew at the end I wanted the Big Bad Wolf to turn into a guinea pig. It was a matter of how do I do it and have it make sense,” he said.

As soon as the Summer Reading Program theme is announced Dan said he is planning his show.

“We start in November, doing the writing and by March I have it outlined and have stuff together.  By the end of May and beginning of June, we are booking shows,” he said.

Patrick chimed in, “It’s, like, July, before we have a show. Through June we’re just winging it.” 

However, with 25-35 performances per season, 33 for this summer, the Heaths have plenty of practice.

“Setting up is the fun part, but tearing down, during the show you’re just throwing things and you make a horrible mess.  This stuff has to last, so you can’t leave anything. It’s pack small, play big,” said Dan.

Patrick said in helping his father travel and pack the shows has been a summer job for several years.

“I get paid for it,” he quipped, “But, a lot of my friends don’t believe me when I say my dad’s a magician and we do shows in the summer.” 

Patrick added, magic has been a family business since he was a child.

“I kind of just grew up with him pulling magic tricks on me - at restaurants making the salt disappear,” he said.

Dan said all four of his children have been exposed to magic their whole lives.

“It was fun to watch each one of them go from ‘Dad is magical’ to ‘My dad does magic,’ Watching each one of them come to that in their own way was fun,” he said.

During performances, Patrick said, one of the highlights for him is watching children begin questioning themselves and the magic.

“I love it when the kids are like, seven, and in denial about magic. Then you do the Rubik’s Cube trick and they just reevaluate their life. Magic is real. They don’t smile, they just stare like, ‘...Wait...’ I love that,” he said.

Dan added as a performer simply seeing kids react to his tricks is worth the hours of driving, from Great Bend to performances in Topeka and even to Galena.  Over the years and through his travels, Dan said he is now seeing the next generation of children attend his shows.

“We had a teacher at Great Bend high school that came to see me in Hoisington and in the hallway he just stops and says, ‘You’re Dan Dan The Magic Man! I came to see you as a kid!’ I think that’s one of those extra joys,” he said.