Ari Isenberg places two queens at the top and bottom of a deck of cards and then fans the deck across his family’s long dining room table.
The 13-year-old asks you to pick a card, look at it, and put it back somewhere in the deck. He closes the deck and fans the cards again.
The queens are now in the middle of the deck and the card you picked is sandwiched between them. His audience reacts with awe.
The Galloway School seventh grader does it all with a calm smile. It’s what he loves about magic.
“I just like seeing people’s faces when they [make a surprised face],” he said. “It’s more of a feeling I made someone’s day because I showed them magic.”
The oldest son of Doug and Leslie Isenberg is starting to get noticed in the magic world.
He’s competed in magic competitions and was the youngest to win second place one year in Daytona. The Society of American Magicians hired Ari as one of six “Stars of Tomorrow” to perform close-up magic, the kind done right in front of the audience’s nose, at its annual convention this summer in Philadelphia.
“It’s a huge deal,” said Doug Isenberg, adding that famed magician Harry Houdini used to be president of the organization.
Ken Scott, a local magician who was scheduled to perform with Ari on May 10, said the boy magician “has really got his eye on the ball” as a performer.
“He’s got a very promising career, if this is what he chooses to do,” Scott said.
Ari has performed at birthday parties and other gatherings. He does close-up magic, which includes card tricks, and is starting to do “stage magic,” which involves illusions done on a grander scale.
His biggest performance yet was May 10. In front of an audience of 250, two nationally acclaimed magicians joined Ari for “Mystery Mitzvah” at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta in Midtown.
The $6,000-plus raised by the show will go to two charities, and fits in with Ari’s “giving back” portion of his bar mitzvah, which was the day before.
Dressed in a pink Polo shirt and jeans, the brown-haired teen, a self-described computer geek, sat recently in his family’s large stone home on a quiet street in Sandy Springs and explained how his passion for magic got started. He was 6 and still remembers the red magic kit he got as a birthday gift.
Every year after that, his grandparents would take him to a magic shop in Marietta and he would get new material.
The kid with twin 8-year-old brothers can show you some of the early stuff he did. He takes out a blue box covered with yellow question marks containing three marbles. He slides a drawer in and out and poof, they are gone.
With a shrug, Ari shows you how there are two drawers, and you just need to hold one underneath to have the empty drawer come out. If you can put your finger “in and out of a hole, you can do it,” he said.
Ari, a runner, who just finished his track and field season at school, can also show you more complicated coin tricks, in which money appears and disappears from your hand. He explains that it just takes lots of practice, a good sleight of the hand and plenty of dexterity.
Ari’s never taken magic lessons, but has learned from attending conventions and seminars all over the country. He gets magic magazines and watches tons of videos that show how to do tricks.
“There’s a whole network of magic out there,” said his father Doug Isenberg, who did magic as a kid, but admits he was never as good as his son, “and Ari’s a part of it.”
When asked if he thinks his magic is just a phase that he’ll outgrow, Ari shakes his head rapidly no. A career perhaps? He has a quick reply.
“David Copperfield has a net worth of $850 million.”
Ari said he sees his future in magic as more of a business. A mentor of his writes books and has a magic shop in addition to performing.
If a magician performs in front of the right people and at the right places, “you can make money,” he said.
Perhaps the hardest trick he’s done he performed May 10, when he was handcuffed, put into a padlocked trunk and switched places with his cousin, who had been sitting on the trunk.
Just how did he do this trick Houdini used to perform? No way he’s telling, he said.
The secret, as with other magicians, “is all about the timing.”