Magician Jeanette Andrews asks me to mark random dots on the back of her business card and initial it on the front.
She waves the card around a bit and -- voilà! -- the random dots on the back of the initialed card have arranged themselves to form the words "Daily Herald."
Magic. Andrews literally has been performing it almost her entire life. She presented her first magic show to her preschool class when she was 4. Now 24, the Wheaton resident is an accomplished magician who has performed on TV shows and lectured around the country.
But don't expect her to pull rabbits from a hat or saw her assistant in two.
"It's definitely a very, very modern take on magic," Andrews said. "People don't know what to expect."
Science of magic
Fascinated with human perception, Andrews said she draws on studies in philosophy, psychology and the art of creating a unique experience to perform acts she hopes will cause audience members to question how they understand and relate to the world around them.
"Every time I perform, I always get a thousand questions from people," she said. "Most people have never seen magic performed live."
Once magic shows were a more common experience, she said. In the late 1800s in Europe, people went to magic shows as they did to the opera and ballet. In this country, vaudeville shows often included magicians.
Most of Andrews' magic is performed at private parties and corporate gatherings for clients looking for a way to make their event different. She also puts together shows to perform before groups -- like her one-woman show "Lumia," which she presented to sold-out audiences for months two years ago at Flight 112 in Elmhurst.
Andrews uses some of the standard props of magicians, such as a deck of playing cards and colored balls, but she is always seeking a different twist.
"I'm always working on what's next," she said.
What's next will include a show involving water and ice. Thanks to an Escape to Create artist residency, she recently was able to spend a month in Florida working on her water act that she said will be ready in its entirety in about a year.
Andrews often brainstorms her ideas with Luciano Ristori, a scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. Ristori said science and magic have more in common than one might think.
"Science is about looking for the real essence of all things around us, about being attracted by phenomena we do not understand and trying to explain them," he wrote in an email.
"Jeanette comes up with very specific ideas about the magic effects she would like to achieve and I try to help her find the means, the techniques that might allow her to achieve them. Her goals are typically very ambitious, doing something new, something nobody else has done before."
Ed Rensi, former president and CEO of McDonald's USA, co-founder of Tom and Eddie's, and recently named interim CEO of Famous Dave's, said Andrews is one of the best performers he's encountered over years of lining up entertainment for conventions and business meetings. He hired her to teach some basic magic acts to the managers of Tom and Eddie's restaurants.
"People don't go out to eat for nutrition. They go out to eat for entertainment," he said. "I found her terribly engaging. Very smart."
Finding a calling
Andrews said she was introduced to magic when she saw a Siegfried and Roy TV special as a young child. She knew then and there that she wanted to be a magician.
"It was obviously so different from anything I had ever seen," she said. "These impossible things happened that really caught my interest."
Seeing her interest, her parents bought her a magic set for Christmas. She soon was performing at birthday and block parties, and by the age of 6 presented her first paid show.
As a student at Wheaton North High School, Andrews said she got good grades but didn't have time for extracurricular activities. She was running her magic business, with her father building props, her grandmother sewing costumes and her mother driving her to events.
During her junior year of high school, she auditioned to work with Eberhard Riese, a German theatrical director of magicians. She was selected and performed at his lectures right after she graduated high school.
"That (magic) was all I've ever done, the only job I've ever had," she said.
Andrews said her performance schedule varies, but she did about a 100 shows last year -- many of them centered around seasonal events. Her corporate clients have included Kraft, the Chicago Bulls, Whole Foods and Tellabs. She's performed at weddings and rehearsals, park districts and libraries.
Andrews has made presentations at conferences and universities, and appeared on TV shows that include WGN-TV's "Morning News."
She will appear on a segment of a nationally syndicated "Masters of Illusion" TV special for The CW Network that will air sometime this year. Her next scheduled live performance is the Nothin' Up My Sleeve fundraiser at 7 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams, Crystal Lake.
Andrews admits it's an unusual profession in a field that is male-dominated.
"It's a very different lifestyle for sure, but I can't imagine anything else," she said.
For information on Jeanette Andrews, visit magicbyjeanette.com.