By BETTY RIDGE
Press Special Writer
A roomful of children immersed themselves in magic Tuesday morning at the Tahlequah Public Library as magician David Tower enthralled them with feats of prestidigitation.
They wondered as he made a bottle of water appear out of nowhere, or at least from behind three scarves he held. They marveled as he plucked silver dollars from behind their friends ears, from their socks, from the napes of their necks. They raised their hands eagerly to be Tower’s on-stage assistants, invoked the magic words “Make a splash!” and wiggled their fingers to encourage Tower’s feats to become reality.
Tower kept crowds in his spell for an hour Tuesday morning and again that afternoon, one of approximately 100 shows he and his wife, Teresa T, will give this summer to children in several states. The Towers have been making magic together, in their on-stage and offstage lives, for 12 years since they began dating and later married. They also frequently perform at corporate stage shows around the country.
But, Tower admitted before the show, he has an ulterior motive – to help children discover the magic he found in reading as a young lad.
He began learning magic at age 6. He came from a military family, and his parents moved frequently. So books became some of his best friends – especially the magic books that fascinated him then, and still do now. When he arrived in a new town, one of the first things he did was get a library card and start checking out books.
“I often tell the kids that I started out with library books,” he said. “Some of the best magic books are in libraries. But most people don’t know that.”
The children, from schools, day care centers, or escorted by parents and grandparents, filed in and took their seats in front of the Carnegie Room’s small stage. Many carried paper bags promoting the library’s summer theme, of “Make a wave at your library,” with books they intended to return, or ready to check out more volumes after the show.
Their feet trod in the footprints of children who have grown up with a love of reading inspired in that room over the past century. But their voices were raised in more excitement than was allowed years ago, when the proper role for youngsters in a library was to “keep the lips zipped.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, are you ready for some magic?” Tower asked.
“Yes!!!!!” his eager audience shouted almost as one, the decibels nearing deafening tones.
The first step was to learn the magic words: “Make a splash” and the magic wiggle of the fingers that helped Tower perform his feats.
The children waved their raised hands as they vied for the opportunity to come on stage and make animal sounds, Tower’s method of warming up his audience. Olivia gave “the world’s greatest” monkey imitation, according to Tower. Katie meowed like a cat, while Anthony barked like a dog, to the crowd’s approval.
Jacob snorted like a horse, an animal also imitated by J.D. and Kayla. Gracie oinked like a pig, Isabel emitted a cow’s moo, and Payton loudly hissed “SSSSSS!” in his snake imitation, which received a thumbs up from one boy seated in a front row.
“Don’t volunteer if you don’t want to get wet,” Tower cautioned them, but no child had to face a mother’s ire when he returned home soaked. By magic, they stayed dry throughout the program, save for a sprinkle of droplets here and there.
Tower told how he didn’t like milk as a child, a taste shared by many in the audience. He made much of a glass of milk disappear into his hand — a welcome skill for those who didn’t join the emotions of one girl sporting a “Got milk?” T-shirt.
Jacob Hall, his loose shoelaces flying around his feet, was one of the first volunteers to join Tower on stage. He and the magician ripped up pieces of paper, sprinkled them with magic water, then put them into their lips. Tower was able to pull a long piece of paper from his mouth, but Jacob couldn’t quite get the pieces to merge, pulling out only fragments.
He tried again, pulling the length of white paper from Tower’s mouth — followed by paper chains in varying shades of the rainbow. The delighted children laughed and screamed.
Tower then demonstrated a trick with an aquarium containing six “fish” formed of playing cards, then helped two more volunteers catch goldfish, representing by gold foam balls, with a fishnet. The number of elusive gold balls kept changing as the act proceeded.
Finally one lonely goldfish, Louie, was left. He met a girlfriend, Louise, and the two were married.
“Fish can’t get married,” one unbeliever grumbled.
But marry they did, and for his next feat Tower produced Louie, Louise and their babies — a whole school of little gold balls. His young assistant’s mouth opened in wonderment as they escaped from his hand.
Tower used a fishing pole and plastic fish, cups of water and other props, including a rubber duck, as he moved through his act.
As the children performed the magic finger wave, the rubber duck “laid” a real egg. Tower made the egg disappear and reappear, with the help of an assistant named Nevaeh.
“He’s magic!” one girl said as Nevaeh pulled the egg from a black bag.
“How’d he do that?” another added.
Teachers and caregivers filed the children down the steps into the library. Perhaps a few, inspired by Tower, checked out books about magic.
And, in two or three decades, the children of Tuesday’s audience may be entertained by one of them during the summer reading program.