CARLSBAD — Lucille the ball python and Chille the chinchilla, along with friends such as doves, bunnies, tortoises and tarantulas are part of the hocus pocus when John Abrams’ Animal Magic takes center stage at the Dove Library June 25.Abrams and his menagerie are frequent guests at the library.
“John’s so popular that we are having him perform twice, at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.,” Barbara Chung, senior librarian for children’s services, said. “He fills the auditorium with high energy, fun and audience interaction. He’s a real crowd pleaser!”
The players aren’t just any animals or props. Abrams says they’re family pets.
“We raise and train our animals from babies,” he said. “Lucille is 14 and has been with me since the beginning. Chille is my favorite. He’s the first animal I ever did magic with. He’s friendly and sweet.”
Abrams explained that he created the act to incorporate the things kids love most: animals and magic. Rather than training the animals, he taps into what is natural for them in the wild, then builds an illusion around it. The result is a fast-paced, multi-media 40- to 45-minute show where kids, 4 and over, are the stars.
Abrams’ ultimate goal is to motivate kids to check out books at the library. He is so confident in his “secret method” to accomplish this that he offers an “ironclad guarantee.”
A graduate of the Manhattan Theatre Academy of Dramatic Arts, Abrams started out as a working stage and screen actor, also doing commercials. He became a magician, out of necessity, 20 years ago.
“I was having a tough time making a living,” he said. “I took a job working for a magician who does corporate shows, traveling around the United States doing everything from small birthday parties to live tiger and dancing girl shows.
“After five years, I thought ‘I’m going to use my acting skills and do it myself.’”
Looking back, Abrams said he was a failure. The important thing was that he never gave up.
“That was 1997 and 1998 and it was horrible,” he recalled. “Shortly after that, I started befriending magicians and really learning the craft. In 1999, I placed my first ad in the Yellow Pages.”
Currently, Abrams performs about 400 shows a year to cheering fans who include Butch Hartman and E.G. Daily of Nickelodeon, Natasha Henstridge, Daryl Hannah, Tommy Lee and Dr. Laura Schlessinger. His regular clients include Ronald McDonald House, the Boy Scouts of America, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles and Orange County library systems.
At the heart of Abrams’ work is a desire to instill in children a belief in themselves.
“My big thing is that you can be anything you want to be, and do anything you want to do, by using the magic side of you,” he said.
Abrams’ theory was tested when his oldest daughter, Juna, announced in eighth grade that she was going to attend college in Europe.
“I thought, ‘Yeah, sure,’” he said, sarcastically. “Today she’s studying geography with a minor in creative writing at Bath Spa University in England.” Juna’s goal is to travel the world working for the National Geographic. Her younger sister, Lily, is a student at Orange County High School of the Arts, and is a gifted singer and artist.
Because of limited seating, a (free) ticket is required for admission. They are available on a first come, first served basis at the children’s desk prior to the event. The library is located at 1775 Dove Lane in La Costa. For more information, call (760) 602-2047 or visit Abrams’ website at animalmagician.com.