Magic and math aren’t synonymous in most people’s minds, but Bradley Fields has made it his mission to change that.
Fields is an internationally famous magician who performs a show called Mathemagic! However, he’s not a run-of-the-mill magic maker. He incorporates math lessons into his act to simultaneously entertain and inform.
Fields performed three shows on Wednesday, Oct. 3 – two for elementary-aged children and a night performance at the University’s Union Theater.
Union Theater Assistant Director Terry Serio said in an email that Fields’ performances were made possible by a grant awarded by South Arts and Cox Business. The ticket prices were affordable for the children and the Union Theater show was free to University students.
Serio said for the two school day performances, they’re expecting approximately 1,500 students representing 14 area schools, including La. School for the Deaf, and additional homeschool families for the performances. Fields is also performing an evening public performance and the Young Leaders Academy’s students and teachers are planning to attend.
Fields said this was his first venture to the Red Stick, and he decided to come to Louisiana because he was asked.
Fields said he has had a lifelong fascination with the art of magic. His interest sparked when he was about 7 years old and attended his first magic show.
Since then, he began studying acting, directing, theater performance and miming in New York and Paris. He has been doing magic shows for 20 years.
During those years, Fields has traveled across the globe teaching young people, averaging about 200 shows per year. But due to the recession he has had to cut back on his prolific schedule.
“Where school budgets have been cut, I’ve been cut too,” Fields lamented. “I now do about half the amount of shows a year that I used to do.”
Despite those factors, Fields is still enthusiastic about getting students excited about math, which he said is not an easy feat.
“The whole math element just kind of fell into place — there’s lots of language and science shows,” Fields explained. “I invented the math shows. The most difficult part was figuring out how do you make a dry subject theatrical?”
Along with math, Fields also works history and vocabulary lessons into his magic show. He explained that the history comes from teaching kids that the first people regarded as “magicians” in ancient times were actually mathematicians.
Fields said his main aim is to teach at a simple and slow enough pace that his audience has no issues comprehending the lessons.
“I think this is an empowering show. It really empowers kids and leaves them feeling good about themselves,” he said.
The show’s content varies for the age of his audience, he said. He does every kind of math from counting for kindergarteners to the binary system for middle school-aged students. He said he also includes jokes he knows will sail over kids’ heads for the benefit of the parents and teachers.
Fields was rather secretive about what his show entails so as to not ruin the allure of the unknown. He did, however, reveal his show contains many surprises, comedy and has three acts. He also said he does a trick where he transforms rice into water.
Fields admitted it’s sometimes difficult to be inspired to create new material for his field.
“Magic isn’t like music; it doesn’t have an infinite amount of note combinations,” Fields elaborated. “It’s very limited, and you have to find creative ways of presenting it.”