Featured Alumni

University College | Faculty of Arts & Science

David Ben

BA 1983

“The news of my retirement is greatly exaggerated,” says David Ben (UC 1983), a Toronto-born conjuror, historian of magic, writer and consultant.

Ben, a renowned expert in sleight-of-hand magic, is in the midst of creating a new show that will revisit some of his old tricks and add a selection of new ones. Each time he creates a show, he is a writer, director and set designer all in one, weaving together a story that incorporates each of his chosen tricks.

“I believe that to be an artist, you need great technique, a great understanding of the past and a vision for the future,” he says.

Ben began his journey into the world of magic at age 12 when his father purchased a copy of the Stein and Day Handbook of Magic. Seeing magician Doug Henning’s Christmas television special cemented his fascination with the amazing possibilities of the art, and he began his own career, doing magic tricks at children’s birthday parties and for hotel diners. He continued performing while at U of T, where he earned a BA in cinema studies and political science. Then, it was on to law school, performing magic all the while.

“I went to law school to learn to be a theatre producer,” Ben says. “You learn about raising funds for start-ups, property acquisition and tax law, which helps you make losses attractive to investors.”

In 1990, he left the practise of law behind to focus on magic. His extensive magic career has included performances at the Shaw Festival, Soulpepper Theatre and Toronto’s Luminato Festival, among many others. Rather than the children’s parties of his youth, these days it is corporations, museums and theatre, film and television productions that seek his magic. 

Ben is almost as passionate about U of T as he is about magic.

“I’m in love with the campus and the people,” he says. “The minds there are incredible and I saw great performances by great orators.”

“I didn’t go there to get a job; I went to be curious about a lot of things.”

To incoming students, Ben says, “University is really just the starting point of your journey, one that will continue elsewhere. You can’t do it alone, so befriend others. Resist peer pressure and follow your passions.”

Posted January 22, 2019.

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