Matthew Stewart hasn’t been around as long as some of the other performers—he only started performing in Dundas Square in April. His act also isn’t as flashy or eye-catching at first, but the 20-year-old magician, who commutes in from Pickering, has tricks up his sleeve that are bound to result in mind fuck.
Stewart has a system worked out with his friend and fellow performer Jordan, a contact juggler: Jordan’s act lures in passersby, while Stewart keeps them captivated, approaching with a smile and a hook: “Hey, do you want to see some magic?”
“It’s all fun,” Stewart says. “Working with Jordan makes it a lot more fun, too.” The two met after they started performing in the same spot in the Square. “It’s cool when you just get to hang out with your friends while you’re working. It’s better than just doing it by yourself.”
Stewart, who mostly does card tricks and the occasional mind reading, says being a lonely kid led him to learn magic.
“Basically, it’s a sad story of not having any friends in elementary school,” he says.
He learned his first trick eight years ago, after appearing on a since-cancelled kids’ TV show called Mystery Hunters, where a character named Doubting Dave showed him how to make a coin disappear. After he showed the trick to his mom, she learned magic so she could teach him a few more tricks.
Stewart’s practice has paid off. When he was 14, he performed for The Monkees at a bar where he was working at the time. Other celebrity run-ins include Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, in Dundas Square, and Simple Plan, before a show.
Aside from yielding a few encounters with fame, working the Square has helped make Stewart a better performer in general.
“Because there are so many hecklers and stuff like that, when I’m doing an actual gig where people are more hyped up, it just makes my job so much easier,” he says. “Time flies by because I’m used to hanging out here for 10, 13 hours.”
His only big challenge is doing sleight of hand as it gets colder, because his fingers get stiff.
After he finished his college degree, Stewart plans to go to performing schools in Las Vegas and New York to further advance his art. But for now, he’s happy at Dundas Square.
“The thing I love about this is that you get to practice and make money doing what you love,” he said. “It’s a great place to experience the performer’s life.”