Many creative thinkers believe that giving yourself restrictions can spark some of your best ideas. Jim McDonald has many difficult limitations placed on his magic act. He hosts a family show. His venue is only lit by candles. He blends history lessons in with his tricks. And he does it all in the character of a man from the late 1700s.

The end result sounds pretty stellar.

McDonald hosts the Magic Parlor at the historic courthouse in Colonial Williamsburg. Shows take place at 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm on Wednesday evenings through the mid-summer, and it is likely that the Magic Parlor will become a standard fixture in the area’s programming.

His act isn’t just a history lecture interspersed with magic tricks. It’s a more immersive storytelling experience that relies on lots of interaction with the youngest audience members.

“It involves people mentally and physically, but it’s a much easier show when I have children here and I can get them to play,” McDonald told the Daily Press. “If I can get them involved, then almost everybody will be in the mood to play, and it turns into something that could be very moving and enjoyable to everyone.”

Because of his audience and persona, McDonald doesn’t do either large technical pieces or intimate, close-up sleights. Every trick is meant to engage the entire audience, and ideally to spark reactions and comments from the children.

“The trick itself is important — but not as important as the story developed around it,” McDonald said. “If you get the kids to buy into the story, you never know what they are going to do with it. With this show, we know all the parts — the beginning, the middle, the end — and you just let them take it where it’s going to go.”

Read the Daily Press’ full interview with McDonald here.

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