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 Sim Sales Bim,the priest is "Magic"
The Magic Circulat   Domenica, 05 Dicembre 2004 00:00
'Sales the Magician is one of the ten or fifteen professional illusionists of the Italian peninsular. With his 120 to150 shows a year, he is always ori the move - mainly in northern Italy - travelling from oratories, to parish theatres and from parish theatres to nursery schools, with his station-wagon crammed full of tricks and scenery. This is without counting his tours abroad which he carries out mainly in the underdeveloped countries. When you realise that he is also a fully ordained priest from the order of Salesian it begins to make the mind boggle! So is Father Silvio Mantelli a sort of mysterious David Copperfield with a priest's habit, or an attractive Silvan, extracting rabbits from his cassock? He certainly isn't a sort of Merlin who keeps his crystal ball in the confessional or, for that matter, a sly fortune-teller wearing a clergyman disguise. Perhaps he could be described as a "Missionary of Merriment". He is 62 years old, has grey hair and wears small round spectacles. He has two university degrees - one in Theology and one in Pedagogy. To really understand the extraordinary "appeal" that Father Silvio's strange "pastoral" message has ori the youngsters, one must see and admire his light-footed, all action show which keeps his audi- à ences - of children and youngsters alike - absolutely spell-bound. He began taking interest in magic during his high school days in Turin, "I knew a man - a little out of the ordinary - who used to frequent various bars where he played the guitar and performed numerous card tricks. He taught me a few tricks and quite often, I acted as his partner during card games where the prize for the winners was a round of drinks. At that time, I was so mesmerised by this game that I dreamed of nothing else but cards. For this reason, I decided that it was time to change my life-style. However, I had already absorbed a few of the basic technologies. Not long after, I happened to leaf through a book on "sleight-of hand" and I began to study the techniques of this art. So, practically all that was missing now 'was an audience! However,soon after, I was aware of my vocation to become a Salesian Father and eventually my audiences arrived too!"As a novice I discovered the theatre in the seminary. Unexpect edly I didn't really experience any difficulties from my superiors in what was considered a very 'unusual' activity. Except perhaps, in the very begin ning ning when my superiors thought that sleight of-hand was in some way connected with esoterical practices; for a certain period, out of scruple, I decided to exclude the word "Magician" from my posters, but the children continued to call me by that name and in the end I was forced to take up the old title again. In the meantime, I had got to know other magicians who, out of friendship to me, came to give a magic show in the seminary. In this way, it became apparent that magie could become a really convincing and interesting media, which could be used to communicate with the youngsters. I too began to give shows but, naturally, I had to wear a cassock - in which I managed to hide quite a number of things! Then it was time to invent a name, owing to the fact that at that time there was an Orion priest called 'Magician ORION', I likewise invented the name of 'Magician SALES'. Besides, these things had already been experimented with by Father John Bosco, who is the patron saint of jugglers, and acrobats etc. and he too performed magic tricks, which he'd learned from peddlers and hawkers "j who frequented the fairs. For the last ten years, Father Silvio has become almost a full-time magician. Nearly every weekend, he sets aside his role of school master (he teaches history and geography in a Salesian Secondary School in Turin) and tours round with his three shows -"The Magic Theatre", which is based onfantasy and fairy-tales, "Around the World in 80 Minutes" and lastly a Show based on cartoon characters. He is in great demand and his mobile is forever in action! He never turns the chance to perform his shows in the provinces - no matter how distant – and emphasises "I usually choose the parishes and the schools, and even have a programme especially suitable for the children in the nursery ' schools. There is always a message behind every show - that of Cheerfulness and Happiness - and by means of Joyfulness, I manage to draw out an educational message from the children themselves." With various colourful costumes and great ability, Father Silvio Mantelli brings to life the numerous characters included in his shows (e.g. Merlffn's Italian cousin "Magician Merluzzo", "Sbrendola the Clown", the Arabian Wizard "Da-L-a-L..." besides, of course, the classical magician dressed in a sequinned tail-coat). Most of my act is based on animation and I have created several numbers which last five or even eight minutes, during which time I impersonate certain characters. I am very fond of the lion-tamer, who doesn't make use of live animals but of his fantasy in order to create - in the midst of his audience - animals from balloons.However, perhaps the most curious transformation still remains, that from priest to magician. "Yes, it's true to say that there is a strange report between these two roles, but I am not an actor who divides his life into what he is and what he does. In my case there can be no division. I always try to be spontaneous in the theatre and therefore I manage to behave in the same manner, as a priest. At this point, I would add that my magic tricks areni everything to me but the people clever magician. The magic powers, although not capable of cancelling discomfort and misfortunes, manage to help to forget the sad flavour of them - if only for an instance. This is only one of the adventures which Father Silvio has experienced during his journeys. In Peru, for example, he was accompanied by the "campesinos" who feared that he might be attacked by the "Sendero Luminoso" (Shining Path, a terrorist organisation). Whilst in Madagascar, his cases containing his magical equipment were stolen and he was forced to invent new tricks. But elsewhere he has seen the despairing face of the underdeveloped world - e.g. in Nigeria, where he saw enormous cities which were true reservoirs of despair. One of the reasons why he performs amongst the African population is to invite the young people to react against this "logical alienation". Above all, however, Father Silvio has received great satisfaction. In a village in central Africa, the king himself - surrounded by his numerous wives - occupied a front row Seat during one of his shows. On another occasion, the Bishop of one of the Indonesian islands, requested the magician (before his departure for Italy) to leave most of his magical equipment with him so that he too could repeat the tricks. However, amongst all the wonderful experiences of the past few years, Father Silvio remembers with nostalgia and clinging affection, the summer of 1993 in Brazil when - in the huge Campogrande Hospital - he met a man suffering from leprosy. His name was Lino tical psychology. In fact, many young magicians are very good at "astonishing" but doni know how to "entertain". Whereas, I would like to teach them how to transmit a message by means of their magic tricks, because a conjuror's best quality is not in the skilful use of his hands but in his intelligence. That's to say, the ability to administer his skill to the best of his ability. I know many very clever magicians who are unable to communicate with their audiences." What really seems to sum up Father Silvio is a real passion for mystery. Fortunately one of the things in which magicians have a certain experience, come to that, so have priests! TMC

Sim Sales Bim,the priest is

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