As a 10-year-old in Avon Lake, Angela Funovits wanted to be a doctor and a magician. Now 27, she is both: a dermatology resident at MetroHealth Medical Center and one of four professional wizards on Syfy's Wizard Wars, which premiered in August. (Think Iron Chef but contestants put together magic acts from supplied props with Penn and Teller as judges.)
As a teenager, she put her act on YouTube and did free shows at nursing homes. Her big TV break came as a mentalist on NBC's prime-time show Phenomenon in 2000. Here's what she's learned from performing, becoming a doctor and wielding chainsaws.
I love using magic with patients.
I was part of a medical team caring for a patient with liver cancer. He understood he was nearing the end of his life, and he was losing hope. One day I came back to see him, and he was about to be transferred to hospice. I did card tricks for him, and he told me stories of his time in Vietnam. Both of us just placed those fears aside and were just two people enjoying the presence of each other.
Everything you do as a physician is a performance: the way you carry yourself, the way you present yourself, the way you speak with your patients.
I was surprised to see how much medicine helped me become more comfortable as a performer. It taught me how to relate to people on a deeper level.
We never claim to be psychic. But it's giving the appearance of being psychic.
It's noticing which way a person's belt is facing to see if they're right- or left-handed.
Chainsaw roulette. This is one I created for Phenomenon. I was trying to step up the danger and the scale of the illusion. We take four crates and have a woman secretly place a male volunteer into one of the crates. She does this behind a curtain. I rev up a chainsaw and ram it through the crates he's not in.
I have not messed up yet.
Growing up, I would grab the TV Guide and look for any magic shows. I would record them on VHS and watch them over and over again. Most of what I was seeing was female assistants assisting this big, confident, powerful male magician.
Eventually, I knew what I was doing was entertaining and I could support myself. ... I'm not inside a box. I'm not being cut into pieces. I'm just here doing magic.