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February 6, 2004

Deaf magician aims to entertain and inspire

From: Jackson Clarion Ledger - Jackson,MS,USA - Feb 6, 2004

By Cathy Hayden

April Wells had a magical experience Thursday. All eyes were on her on the stage at the Mississippi School for the Deaf.

She showed her classmates the empty cylinder she was holding. Then, following instructions from Matt Morgan's flying fingers, she pretended to put corn, salt, oil and butter into the cylinder, and then shook it hard.

April, 13, of Gulfport, hesitated in mid-shake and grinned with amazement.

When Morgan opened it, out spilled popcorn.

"When I shook it, it felt really heavy and the popcorn was in there," April said through interpreter Sandra Edwards, director of instruction at the school.

Students at the Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson this week were treated to a performance by Morgan, a Wisconsin magician, before learning a few of his secrets during workshops with him.

Morgan was born deaf and attended a school for the deaf.

"I can fool your eyes," signed Morgan to the audience. "How do I do that? All magic is a trick. I'll admit that to you. I love to see your faces smile. I want to teach you magic secrets."

His message to students was not only about learning magic tricks, something he has been doing since age 6, but that they can achieve so much through perseverance.

He encouraged them to pursue their interests, like magic, by reading everything they can.

Funded through a grant from Sprint, Morgan's appearance is the first of a monthly series of activities at Mississippi School for the Deaf commemorating the school's 150th anniversary.

At the beginning of one workshop, Morgan drew a picture of a duck on a sketchpad, wrote on it "Sprint the duck" and turned the pad sideways.

Seemingly from between the pages of the sketchpad fell a half-grown white duck that flew off the stage and walked toward the audience.

Mississippi School for the Deaf students shook their hands in the air, showing applause.

Carl Jenkins, 12, of Benoit, followed Morgan's signing instructions for a trick with small red balls. At one point, he blew on his empty closed fist and opened it to find a red ball.

"He's got a trick somehow," Carl said through an interpreter. "I don't exactly know how he did it."

John Jun, superintendent of the Mississippi School for the Deaf, watched from the back of the auditorium.

"This is wonderful," he said. "This is an opportunity not only for the kids to learn but set goals for life. You can be an entertainer. You can be in the arts.

"You see how the kids' eyes light up?" he said. "It's fun to watch."

Copyright © 2004, The Clarion-Ledger.