RUMFORD — Accomplished magician and entertainer Scot Grassette is about to pull a rather big “rabbit” out of 49 Franklin‘s hat to finally realize a dream this winter.
Next month, Grassette will debut his teaching talents for 49 Franklin’s School of Magic and Showmanship, a place where students ages 7 and up will learn stage illusions, stand-up and parlor magic, stagecraft and more.
“I’ve been wanting to do this since we bought 49 Franklin,” Grassette said of himself and his wife, Cindy Grassette. “I had it in my original business plan, but I just put it off, because I didn’t figure it was really the right time.”
They bought the former Franklin Street Methodist Church at 49 Franklin St. in Rumford in 2003 and spent the next seven years converting it into 49 Franklin, a performance art theater as well as a catering and reception hall.
Classes are tentatively scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays from Feb. 9 through March 18. The cost for 12 lessons at $20 each is $240, or less than $5 per lesson-hour for $119 if the student participates in a show at the end of classes.
Tickets for that show at 7 p.m. Friday, March 20, will cost $8 on the day of the show, which will be open to the public. There will be a special advanced price, and students can sell tickets for that price before the show.
“I expect (my students) to go through the show, but somebody might be chicken and say, ‘I don’t want to go up there,'” Grassette said. “Hopefully, this school will prepare them to do that. But you can still do these lessons and not participate in the show — it just costs more.”
Scot Grassette is an electrician at NewPage Corp. and is currently filling a safety advocate role at the Rumford paper mill. He’s a mostly self-taught magician of more than three decades who’s taken classes from worldly conjurers and illusionists.
“I’ve had classes from many top magicians, including Jeff McBride, who came to 49 Franklin, and also Eugene Burger, Michael Ammar, Mark Wilson and the late great John Calvert,” he said.
Grassette said he’d like to have a minimum of five students and a maximum of 10 for the first school session. On Saturday, he already had one definite student — a 9-year-old girl — and heard from a couple of others who are interested via Facebook. He believes he can get the minimum number of students required to hold the class.
“Any age has the potential to bring some entertaining value to the stage,” he said. “I want it to be a mix of ages. The show will also feature several students working together to perform an illusion. I expect people to practice on their own, and if everything falls together, we’re going to have a really good show.”
The course cost covers the 503-page book “Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic,” which Grassette said contains hundreds of tricks and advice and is the world’s most popular book of magic instruction.
“We’re going to be working out of this a lot,” he said of the book. “Tricks that I’m going to be teaching are directly out of this book, and there are hundreds of tricks. And most of this stuff uses things that are commonly found.
“Nothing that we’re going to do will cost any extra money,” Grassette said.
Students “are going to be doing things that I’ve never done or things that I know of that I haven’t done, plus they’ll be doing things that I’ve done in a paid show.
“So it’s professional material that we’ll be doing,” he said. “It’s not just for little kids to be entertained by.”
According to the school’s tentative itinerary, topics include group magic, ropes, levitation, cut and restored papers, stage manipulation, mentalism, mind reading, escape and comedy magic.
“If this thing works out well, the next time I may do close-up magic and then do a dinner for a show and have the students going around, doing table-to-table magic,” Grassette said. “That would be kind of neat.”
He said he’s already fielding questions from potential students, asking what they’re going to need for equipment and whether they’ll still have it to use after completing the course.
“Most of the stuff that I’m teaching, you can get at home,” Grassette said, pointing to a coil of yellow rope, playing cards and coins beside a showman’s vintage black top hat on a small table.
“Someone will do an escape on stage, and somebody’s going to be doing card manipulations or coins for one of their things on stage manipulation,” he said. “T. Nelson Downs took this to stages all around the world, pulling coins out of the air, like the act of pulling coins out of your ear. He did this act on just producing money. Every (student that wants to) will be doing a bit on the show, like a T. Nelson Downs-inspired act.”
Learning the art of magic also helps build confidence in oneself, which can help a person in life in other ways, like at a job interview or party.
Performing magic “is an artform, and you put your spin on (the tricks) and put your words to them,” Grassette said. “You can directly copy these things, and it’s not necessarily artistic. It’s still skill, but it’s more art when you put your own spin and your own words and your own twist on it. It’s a lot like music. You can be a cover band or you can be a unique cover band that puts your own flavor into the song.”
And that’s a big part of why Grassette wants to teach magic.
“I just think that it’s a good opportunity for someone that’s always wanted to do this thing, and I’m offering the things that I know, and I think I have enough to offer that will be of value to people,” he said.
“And I would guarantee that anybody who participates in this is going to remember it forever. You’ll never forget about the time we took these classes and did this show.”