Making magic on the side

On weekends, Lorenzo the Great casts mysterious incantations, flabbergasting his fascinated audience at peewee birthday bonanzas.

On Tuesday mornings, Professor Laurence Lipman utilizes slightly more conventional methods to captivate his students in the School of Media and Public Affairs.

Lorenzo and Lipman, despite their disparate professions, share a magical bond: They’re the same person.

Lipman’s full-time job is at AARP Bulletin, where he works as the senior editor for state news, but at night he headlines children’s birthday parties as a magician.

The journalism professor started performing magic 15 years ago to entertain his nieces and nephews at family gatherings. But he soon discovered a passion for making children laugh.

After attending a magic show convention, he began offering his services as a birthday party magician.

“There’s a saying among children’s magicians that ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,'” Lipman said. “In doing magic for children, the magic trick itself is almost incidental. It’s all about the bits of business – the comedy, the things that go wrong, before you get to the magic.”

As a former president of the Society of American Magicians and the D.C. Ring of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and a member of the Virginia Magic Society, Lipman said he is always learning new tricks from his peers – when his day job doesn’t get in the way.

“In fact, I was supposed to go to a magic meeting last night, but you know, I had a lot of papers to grade,” he said.

Many of his students, however, don’t know they have a magician for a professor.

“I had no idea [he was a magician]. I wasn’t even completely sure we were talking about the right professor,” said D.J. Sigworth, a sophomore in Lipman’s journalism class.

“Now that I think about it, I can definitely see him fit that role,” Sigworth said. “He’s always tries to make the class seem more engaging with hypothetical examples, scenarios and stories, especially because it’s an 8 a.m. class.”

Lorenzo the Great has volunteered to perform free magic shows for a number of charitable organizations, like the Inova Fairfax Hospital, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Camp Kesem, a GW-run program for children whose parents are suffering from cancer.

When Lipman started his career in magic, his daughter, Margaret Lipman, was in kindergarten. Now, she’s a senior at the University of Virginia.

“Being the daughter of a magician is awesome and very unique,” she said. “It’s always a really fun thing to share when people ask me for an interesting fact about myself, and I love telling people about Lorenzo the Great.”

Will magic stay in the Lipman family?

“My dad hasn’t revealed most of his tricks to me because, as you know, a magician never reveals his secrets,” she said.

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