Magic. In an era of smartphones that can perform once-impossible tasks, the word doesn't quite evoke the same allure and mystique that it once did. But despite its diminishing appeal as a form of mass entertainment, the art of illusion still has a few rabbits left in its hat. In July this year, 13-year-old Thirawat Kongnugul glided past young wizards from all over the world to bag second place in the International Brotherhood of Magic's yearly Stage Contest in Arizona _ proof that Thai magicians still have a few tricks up their collective sleeve (see accompanying story).
Underappreciated and rarely in the limelight these days, the local community of professional magicians is also petite to the point where all the players know one other, and while Thai kids still flock in droves to singing classes and dance schools, few are drawn to the once-glamorous world of smoke and mirrors.
"It only appeals to a limited number of youngsters and the parents who have to pay for the lessons might be inclined to think that there'd be a greater chance of their children making it big as a singer or getting a steady job as a dancer one day as opposed to becoming a famous magician," explains Sombat Chitmankongkul, owner of the International Academy of Magic and a professional illusionist who works under the stage name Mamada.
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