Rocky Gorge man picked to appear, magically, at preinaugural dinners

January 19, 2001|By Lourdes Sullivan | Lourdes Sullivan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ERIC HENNING, who lives in Rocky Gorge, near Laurel, was selected to perform his feats of prestidigitation at the preinaugural dinners held for President-elect George W. Bush last night.

Henning was among 21 area magicians tapped to help celebrate the transfer of power to the new administration. He and his fellow magicians were to stroll among the tables and dignitaries, performing on request and keeping the diners entertained between speeches.

Henning, 39, is honored - and surprised - to have been selected. He subscribes to numerous e-mail groups for magicians, but he hadn't read his correspondence in days. Last week, when he finally did, he found that the committee in charge of planning inaugural events was looking for magicians.

He considered helping out by recommending names when, 10 minutes after reading the e-mail, he got a call from the committee.

It seems he had been recommended by a fellow magician - and got the gig.

Henning sees the magical arts as more than entertainment. For a brief moment, in a magician's performance, the audience becomes a community sharing the experience of wonder.

Magic alters your sense of reality, Henning says. Seen close up, it is a more human form of entertainment for a generation that grew up watching television, and for whom community might often be sought on a computer.

"Magic makes a real human connection," Henning said. Its other value, he added, is to remind us that no one is so smart that he or she can't be fooled. "We are trying to rekindle wonder and arouse skepticism," he said.

A shy child, Henning began his career in magic by reading books and attempting the tricks described in them.

"The thing about learning magic is that sooner or later you have to perform for someone," he said. "It really helped me get out of my shell, and now you can't shut me up."

Since those early years, he has learned a lot from books and fellow magicians. His early stints as a professional included working as a street magician in Europe and taking summer jobs at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

In one of his routines, Henning plays a court magician to Queen Victoria, dressing in 19th-century finery and performing tricks that dazzled royalty more than 100 years ago.

When not astounding his audiences, trying new tricks and writing for magicians journals, he writes for an investment newsletter in Herndon, Va.

Henning encourages aspiring magicians to check their libraries for resources. He also recommends a Web site that is filled, he says, with useful information for budding magicians: http://users.erols.com/millere/symmagic. html.

Henning can be reached on the Web at http://www.thewand.net.

Art classes

The Glass Key, a stained-glass shop at U.S. 1 and Route 32, offers adult and children's classes. The classes for children include instruction in such skills as how to etch glass and make mosaics and blown-glass ornaments.

The cost is $35 to $45. Registration is limited to eight students a class. The adult classes teach participants to make panel or Tiffany-style lamps, blow or etch glass and create mosaic stepping stones. These classes involve longer sessions.

Review classes in soldering and cutting are available for those with experience. The cost is $35 to $100. The shop is at 8610 Washington Blvd., Jessup.

Information: 301-483-6066.

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