LAS VEGAS — The career of one Miami County graduate is nothing short of magic.
Wayne Phelps — now professionally known as William Draven — will begin his third season as a member of the “Masters of Illusion,” TV show returning to the CW with two 30-minute episodes airing back-to-back at 8 p.m. Friday.
The 1999 Troy High School and Upper Valley JVS graduate, who now resides in Las Vegas, said his earliest interest in magic came from watching David Copperfield vanish the Statue of Liberty in 1983.
“I was 2 1/2 years old then, and I knew right then and there I wanted to be a magician,” Draven said.
Locally his interest in magic was cultivated by local magician and shop owner David Johnson of Dave’s Balloons & Magic.
“In my teen years, I would spend countless hours at Dave’s shop practicing and honing my skills,” he said. “Dave was a wonderful mentor. I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher, and I’ve had many.”
Draven said he has been doing magic professionally since 1996, and started in his hometown of Troy.
“I started in Troy delivering pizzas for Little Caesars and doing little magic tricks with the delivery,” said Draven, whose mother, Renee Phelps, still resides in Troy. “‘Pizza pizza, Magic magic’ is what we called that summer program. I also did a lot of children’s parties at that time, too.”
Draven said several of his mentors include Aye Jaye, the first Ronald McDonald for the McDonald’s corporation, and Boss Clown for many years; Luna Shimada, a magical legacy being the daughter of Hiro Shimada; and Paul Draper, a cultural anthropologist out of Salt Lake City.
Draven said he started on season one of “Masters of Illusion,” hosted by Dean Cain, as a street performer that would do sections outside the theater during commercial bumps.
The second season Draven got the chance to perform on the actual big stage.
“That was a thrill! Studio audience sure — and I’ve worked before more live before — but something about the cameras, the PA’s, and the production just made it all surreal,” said Draven, the brother of Troy Police Chief Charles Phelps.
Draven then took a break from season three of Masters to film “Don’t Blink,” which aired on the POP Network.
Draven said his specialty is in performing the classic American Sideshow acts, which include things like laying on beds of nails, fire eating, fire blowing and target striking with a whip. Of these skill sets, Draven said the one that has been featured the most on the show is his “Human Blockhead” act. Draven said watchers this season will see it as a duet act with magic Asian man Naathan Phan.
“I drive a 6-inch nail into my nose with a hammer,” he said.
Draven also has been a featured performer on the national television programs “True Nightmares” on Information Discovery and “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS. He’s also made a guest appearance on “America’s Next Weatherman” on TBS, headlined at the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, headlined at Jeff Mc’Bride’s Wonderground in Las Vegas and at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and entertained A list Hollywood stars.
Draven has toured the nation as a performing member of both the Freakshow Deluxe, as well as Masters of Illusion the LIVE Wizard World Experience, and is a favorite among some of the nation’s largest Anime and Steam Punk trade show conventions.
Draven is also currently in pre-production on the fifth installment of his signature burlesque and variety art show experience “MYTH: Legends of Burlesque & Magic,” which has been a featured event at the nation’s largest anime convention Anime Expo the past three years.
Returning for season four of “Masters or Illusion,” Draven said he remains grateful for 20 years of doing what he loves.
“I don’t have a job. As one of my mentors once told me, ‘Find a way to get paid for what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!’ The most rewarding part of my work is that I get to inspire others,” Draven said. “I’ve worked with kids and adults, and seeing the wonderment, and amazement in others eyes is a very rewarding experience. I take that part of my ‘job’ very seriously.”