Feinberg Prof. Ricardo Rosenkranz mixes magic, medicine in stage show


Source: The Rosenkranz Mysteries

Feinberg Prof. Ricardo Rosenkranz in his show “The Rosenkranz Mysteries: Physician Magician” at the Royal George Theatre. The show’s run recently got extended to Memorial Day weekend.

Alena Prcela, Reporter

When Feinberg Prof. Ricardo Rosenkranz wandered into a tiny Mexico City magic shop 18 years ago, he didn’t expect his world to change.

But it did.

“I was entranced,” Rosenkranz said. “But I had no idea what this would come to mean to me.”

Now, Rosenkranz teaches medical students a course he created that intertwines magic and medicine. Even in his hard science lectures, he incorporates mini performances at the beginnings or ends of classes.

When he is not in the classroom, he performs his original show, “The Rosenkranz Mysteries: Physician Magician,” at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre. The show’s run, which began in late 2016, was recently extended until Memorial Day weekend.

Rosenkranz’s journey with magic started slow. At first, he said it was a hobby to show off at dinners with friends and a way to entertain his wife and three kids. When a friend suggested he start performing publicly, Rosenkranz tossed the idea aside.

“I’m teaching at the medical school, seeing patients,” he said. “I’m not going to go and start doing restaurant magic.”

Soon, however, he discovered a way to bring his magic to the classroom. Rosenkranz started performing — just an illusion or two — for his students at the end of classes.

Initially, Rosenkranz said, he was a little nervous about “offending the dean.”

However, the medical school faculty have been overwhelmingly supportive of Rosenkranz’s unconventional subject matter, Feinberg Prof. Greg Brisson said.

“If you think about medicine, it’s a profession that’s based in science. Magic by definition is hard to prove, and the results can make a scientist skeptical,” Brisson said. “But I’ve never heard anything but support (for) it.”

Eventually, after winning several teaching awards — honors he attributes partially to his in-class illusions — Rosenkranz got a call about teaching a Feinberg humanities seminar on the subject. He immediately started researching and developing a curriculum.

Rosenkranz said students in the class don’t just learn theory of magic; they watch professional magicians and mentalists, learn illusions and perform a show at the end of each term. Medicine and magic, he said, are both about forming connections — whether with patients or with an audience.

“Magic and medicine share DNA,” he said.

About seven years ago, Rosenkranz decided to bring his passion from the classroom to the stage. Initially, he said he expected to perform a simple show, once a week, in hotels around the city.

But after learning a new illusion, in which water inexplicably appears in two empty bowls, he realized he needed full stage lights to capture it perfectly. After dropping his daughter off at a Royal George Theatre camp, he knew he wanted to be on that stage instead.

Then Jessica Fisch (Communication ’15) signed on as the show’s director and enacted even more changes. Instead of a traditional magic show, Fisch said she wanted Rosenkranz to tell a story, and more specifically, a story about himself.

“We ended up talking for two hours, because he’s just so interesting,” she said. “When I listened to the script in its current form, I just felt like it was missing this thing. The most interesting thing is that you’re a doctor and a magician and that’s really a story for people to hear.”

And so the “Physician Magician” in its current form was born, making its premiere in winter 2016.

Throughout the performance, Rosenkranz tells personal stories about his Feinberg students and interactions with patients. One act features a drawing that looks like a rabbit from one angle and a duck from another. Rosenkranz shows the same image to students on the first day of class to remind them to challenge their existing ways of thinking, he said.

Though his show closes at the end of the month, Rosenkranz said he plans to stay busy. In addition to writing an academic book about medicine and performance, Rosenkranz is also working on a new show called “Concealment and Revelation.”

For this show, he said he plans to just focus on the magic and leave his lab coat at home.

“But I’ll always be the physician magician,” he said.

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