Sam Dvorak ’23 longed to be a wizard after reading “Harry Potter” as a child but he knew he faced a few practical impediments.
“So I became the closest thing that I could,” said the neuroscience concentrator from Albany, N.Y. “A magician.”
Dvorak’s love of magic may have started in the realm of fantasy but it became firmly entrenched in reality as he co-founded the Society of Harvard-Undergraduate Magicians (known by its clever acronym, SHAM), of which he is now co-president. Dvorak formed the club with fellow sophomore Taylor Kruse after meeting as participants in the first-year arts program and bonding over their shared passion for illusion.
“It was a lucky day that we found each other doing magic tricks,” said Dvorak, who learned his first trick — a classic card maneuver called the double lift — in sixth grade. Kruse was a veteran of sleight of hand, having started in first grade. They joined forces to create SHAM and reactivate the on-campus magic scene, the most recent iteration of which was the Harvard Magic society four years ago.
SHAM’s official debut was derailed by the pandemic last spring, but organizers regrouped in the fall, recruiting new members and holding bi-weekly meetings at which they taught each other new tricks and talked about how to adapt tricks for different audiences and what to do when a trick goes wrong. They also held their first show in February for a virtual audience of around 80 students and Harvard affiliates who tuned in from around the world.
“It was kind of a shot in the dark on how many people were going to come to the show,” said Kruse, a computer science concentrator from Norridgewock, Maine. “We were pretty blown away and delighted by how many people attended the show and had a fun night.”
Kruse and Dvorak were excited to see the range of ages and locations represented in the audience, and that some people had brought their families to the Zoom show.
“One of the big challenges that we faced is how to work with volunteers, and how do you interact with an audience, which is such a huge part of magic and so hard to do over Zoom,” said Dvorak. “It’s so cliched, but when you say pick a card, any card, what if you can’t actually pick a card, any card?”