Do you believe? Young magician already making his mark in the entertainment world

Friday, July 27, 2012
Seventeen-year-old magician Jay Temaat stands with his assistant, Rachel Herring, of Pittsburg, in front of his prop trailer on Thursday afternoon. Temaat, who has gained national attention as "Kansas' finest young magician," plans to attend Fort Scott Community College this fall. (Angelique McNaughton/Tribune)

He walked into the Tribune office and immediately began setting up a small, dark brown table in the corner with a black and blue cloth carefully placed over the top, blue side up. A tiny, brown box sat directly in the middle of the table over the cloth.

He said he had "a little surprise for later."

The young man in black sweatpants, a short-sleeved gray T-shirt and a black baseball cap that let his hair peak out from under the brim, appeared every bit his age.

Magician Jay Temaat performs an impromptu trick, making a small, brown table mysteriously levitate about three feet off the ground on Wednesday afternoon.(Angelique McNaughton/ Tribune)

But as soon as Jay Temaat began to talk about his career, the 17-year-old exuded confidence and a professional persona like someone well beyond their years and it makes sense why.

The new Fort Scott resident has been practicing magic for almost nine years and professionally working for the last five years traveling from coast to coast performing at various venues for diverse audiences.

Temaat plans to be one of about 2,000 students attending Fort Scott Community College in the fall double-majoring in psychology and business.

While he's here, he hopes to share his world with others and "bring all the magic" to the area.

"My goal at the end of these six months by the time I leave is for each one of you to believe in magic," a smiling Temaat said. "Magicians are not there to fool you or trick you, they're just there to show you that magic is real ... if you believe in them."

Temaat classifies himself, first and foremost, as a magician. But more specifically, he considers himself an illusionist, a stage magician, a close-up magician, a quick-change artist, an escape artist and a family entertainer.

Since he was a young child, Temaat has believed in the power of magic and felt connected to the masters of illusion.

Growing up in Wyoming, Temaat was the second oldest of four children. His family moved to Frontenac about four years ago, where they've resided since. Neither of his parents are theatrical or involved in the entertainment industry, he said.

While his siblings always loved to help him out with his tricks, he said they got pretty tired of the "hey pick a card'" line that they'd been hearing for years.

A family friend who was involved with magic introduced Temaat and his young relatives to some of the smaller tricks of the trade early on.

Paul "Skip" Foley Jr., a member of the Wichita Kansas Wizards, said the first time he taught the young magician a trick was about 10 years ago.

At the tender of age of 12, Foley took Temaat to Las Vegas to give him a glimpse of magic beyond simple card and rope tricks.

From there, his hobby developed into a passion and way of life.

"I realized that I really loved doing that and it was truly magical to see the faces people make when they see it happen," Temaat said of his first Las Vegas trip.

He started performing at schools, nursing homes and private parties in 2008.

He also routinely began attending the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas.

The magic seminar has become the "premier magic convention in the world," attracting "the finest magicians from all over the globe," according to its website.

"I sat there and watched these kids and saw how successful they were and how amazing they were," Temaat said.

The first time the magician competed in the seminar he won the highest award -- a $1,500 scholarship to the McBride Magic and Mystery School in Las Vegas, where he studied for a month.

His frequent trips to Sin City and the ensuing absences he racked up from Frontenac High School led the Temaats to the difficult decision to pull Jay from the public school system. He enrolled in the Lawrence Virtual School, based in Lawrence, and graduated two years early.

Before leaving the school, Temaat became close friends with classmate Rachel Herring. Herring and Temaat's personal relationship evolved into a professional one, with Herring acting as Temaat's assistant for the past three years.

"It's awesome," Herring said of working with Temaat.

The pair recently went to Norfolk, Va., for the 2012 Youth Stage Show at the IBM Annual Convention. Most recently, they returned from performing at a slew of county fairs throughout western Kansas.

Not wishing to divulge his exact take-home pay from his performances, Temaat said depending on the show, he can make anywhere from $100 to more than a $1,000 for longer, more technically demanding shows.

"I have a variety of different shows," he said. "From family entertainment shows, which I would classify as stage show light, to grand illusion shows featuring world-class illusions performed by international magicians today."

During his young career, Temaat has gained notoriety and won numerous awards, including the 2012 East Coast Teen Champion of Magic after taking first place in the national stage competition.

A Las Vegas entertainer introduced the teen as "Kansas' finest young magician," which he said has "kind of stuck."

"It feels pretty great," he said. "I look at it now and I think I'm 17, and these are my successes so far."

"I'm excited to see what comes next," he added.

With plans of staying in Fort Scott until December, Temaat said he has three options after that. He could attend the University of Las Vegas, open a theater in Tennessee if he can find investors, or travel to perform in Spain.

Like every other young person his age, Temaat said he is unsure what he wants to do with his talents.

"I go back and forth between dreams of traveling around the world and performing and showing magic to the different cultures and experiencing the different cultures to having a stage show on (the) strip in Las Vegas," he said. "When I look at them, most people think that is a really big goal for a kid from Kansas, but I think that each of those are very attainable. I believe I'll be successful at them."

Foley said his former student has gained national and some international attention from some of the top magicians in the country.

"He's very innovative and proficient," he said of Teemat in a telephone interview. "He's very intent on becoming a successful entertainer and perhaps a theater owner of some kind."

He's very capable, Foley said, and he's never seen Temaat fail to reach a goal.

"A very talented boy and I think he's going to be a very successful entertainer and probably businessman," he said.

Aside from the intrigue magic sparked within him at a young age, Temaat said about five years ago he had an experience that inspired him to pursue magic full time.

"I was performing at a nursing home and there was man in the back and he had the biggest smile on his face and I loved it," Temaat said.

After the performance, he walked to the back of the room and shook the elderly man's hand.

"When I was packing my stuff up, his wife came up and talked to me and told me he was very, very sick and that she hasn't seen him smile in months and this was the first time (she'd seen) him smile again," he said. "She asked me to call back in a week, just to bring back the smile."

When he called back a week later, the teen learned the man had died in his sleep the night of his performance a week earlier.

"But the last thing that brought a smile to his face was the magic that I was doing," he said. "And I felt that was truly magical."

Temaat picked up the table, cloth and small box -- in that order -- and moved them to the center of the room.

With the assistance of a Tribune employee, Temaat mysteriously made the table levitate and hover about three feet off the ground without any visible clues as to how he did it.

"There is not one minute of my life that has not revolved around magic," he said. "It's consumed my every waking moment ... in a positive way ... and there are not that many people that get to experience that."