Alan Chien remembers being astonished by magic.
Out on the schoolyard in 2007, he stood among a crowd of excited elementary school students. He witnessed one of his classmates transform four different playing cards into the same card: the king of spades.
Chien asked the classmate how he performed the card trick, but he refused to say. Two dollars later, the boy agreed to teach Chien the secret behind the magic he had witnessed.
“My mind was blown,” said Chien, a first-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student.
Chien, along with five other acts, will perform mysterious tricks and illusions at the Magic and Illusion Student Team’s second annual “An Evening of Magic” event on May 18.
From middle school to college, Chien said magic played a prominent role in his personality development.
In high school, Chien had a quiet and introverted personality; he did not openly share his affinity for magic with his fellow classmates. However, come his sophomore year of high school, Chien said he revealed his magic tricks to a group of his upperclassmen friends.
Chien said these seniors, who were active in the student body, gave him the opportunity to share his magic with others by bringing him around campus to perform for other student groups.
Word of Chien’s magic tricks spread throughout the student body and he began performing for the basketball team, school counselors, teachers and classmates.
“When I had my cards, I felt like I was a completely different person, like I had something to offer people that they would be genuinely interested in,” he said. “I could cause amazement.”
Chien gained the confidence to approach students and ask them if they would like to see his magic tricks, knowing they might ignore or turn him down.
He came to the realization that the more he asked, the more opportunities he had to perform.
“That is what brought me out of my shell,” Chien said.
Soon, Chien became widely known and recognized at his high school. He remembered that most of the student body knew of his magic abilities. However, nobody knew his name. He said while magic shattered his once introverted personality, it defined him as “the magic kid.”
“(Becoming ‘the magic kid’) kind of took away from my personality a little bit, which is something I’m trying to work on: presenting magic as not just a trick, but as myself,” he said.
Carlos Suarez, a first-year economics student and MIST magician, said it is important for a magician’s personality to shine through his or her tricks. He added that magic allows the performer to make a closer connection with an audience through collaboration.
“When other audience members see this interaction, they want to be a part of it,” Suarez said. “And through the participation, they get to know you.”
Today, Chien is a junior member of the Magic Castle, a private, Hollywood clubhouse of the Academy of Magical Arts and a magician for UCLA’s MIST. He said his membership in MIST has been a humbling experience, as he feels surrounded by many talented magicians.
Mike Li, a fourth-year psychology and economics student and the president of MIST, said “An Evening of Magic” will give students a rare opportunity to experience magic as a performance piece.
“Magic is a form of storytelling, and we put a little bit of ourselves into this story through the tricks we choose to perform and how we converse with the audience,” Li said.
Chien said for his club members, the magic of a performance is not in the trick itself, but rather lies within the magician’s ability to perform in a way that reveals his or her personality.
“Magic is 2 percent the actual trick, and 98 percent how you actually perform it,” he said.