Student, scholarship donor make magical connection
1:24:54 PM CDT - Friday, February 11, 2005
By Melissa Lacey
Seth Konkel, now 22, remembers being mesmerized as a 7-year-old watching famed illusionist David Copperfield performing in a TV special.
Copperfield performed his "metamorphosis" illusion where he and an assistant miraculously changed places from suspended platforms behind veils of cloth.
Seth Konkel, an entrepreneurship senior, displays some of the parlor magic tricks given to him by WSU scholarship donor Georgia Draper. The decades-old tricks belonged to Draper's late brother, a lifelong magician.
Photos by Melissa Lacey
"To me what had just happened was not humanly possible," says Konkel, a senior in entrepreneurship and marketing with a minor in management. "I was just enthralled with everything it had to offer and with the feeling I got from watching it."
An interest in magic that was kindled night has turned into a business for Konkel and a special relationship with a WSU donor.
During an eighth-grade talent show, he levitated a table with an assistant lying on it and in another illusion he had the assistant crawl through him. In high school, he produced a full-scale magic show featuring larger stage illusions. That time, Konkel used six assistants for the three-night event — a benefit for Special Olympics. His senior year in high school, he performed in a Las Vegas teen magic competition with 13 cast and crew members.
Today Konkel is an illusionist — a performer like Copperfield. A true entrepreneur, he runs Ilusion Productions Inc. in Haysville, a full-scale show capable of traveling the country.
When he performed for WSU's top scholarship donors at the annual Fairmount Society dinner last May, audience member Georgia Draper was paying special attention.
At the time, Konkel was the recipient of the Kenneth B. Northcutt Memorial Endowed Scholarship, named for Draper's late husband. She had met Konkel once before during a luncheon arranged by WSU's Foundation. Konkel's performance reminded Draper of her late brother, George Robins, of Bartlesville, Okla., who was a lifelong magician.
"He loved children and he loved to entertain them," says Draper. "He always carried a funny trick in his pocket and he would amaze them by making it disappear."
Included in the 12 boxes of props Konkel received from Draper were old notebooks full of yellowed and worn magic trick instructions.
In the middle of the night Draper says an idea came to her. Maybe Konkel would like to have her brother's collection of magic tricks sitting in storage in her nephew's Maryland home. After calls to her nephew and to Konkel, the wheels were set in motion to send what Draper and Konkel assumed would be a couple of boxes of old tricks.
What arrived were three boxes, twice the size of computer paper boxes. Inside were smaller boxes containing parlor tricks, many of them handmade, including cards, coins, rope, wands and typed instructions.
"It was definitely a lot more than I expected," says Konkel. "They were (vintage), or the first version of today's current tricks, and some I've never seen before."
Then came another call from Draper. She had six more boxes for Konkel, with some even bigger than the first shipment. This set of tricks included magic rings, silks and a rabbit in a top hat. Some tricks were carefully wrapped in newsprint dating back to 1911.
The final shipment of three more large boxes arrived last fall. Konkel says he was amazed and thankful to receive the decades-old collection.
"It enables me to learn the history of magic in a more realistic manner, because books of magic can explain the history but you don't usually have the physical trick to compare it to," he says.
Draper says she is happy to have made a special connection with Konkel.
"He's very nice and I'm very fond of him," she says. "I'm glad my brother's things are being used by someone who appreciates them."
As a side note, magic isn't Konkel's only claim to fame. Some may recall his 2001 run for Haysville Board of Education, when his use of public records uncovered spending improprieties by the then-superintendent. As a high school senior, he won a four-year term with the board that year and will run again in this April's elections.