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Borgia weaves magic into digital storytelling

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bobby Borgia with student Macarena Aquirre Estalella

When professional illusionist Bobby Borgia makes an appearance at Mercyhurst University on Thursday, Oct. 8, students won’t be learning the tricks of his trade — instead, Borgia’s performance will demonstrate the impact of storytelling.

Borgia, an internationally acclaimed magician and illusionist, will guest lecture juniors and seniors in the 400-level digital storytelling class taught by Communication Instructor Brian Sheridan. This course teaches students how to collect information and creatively share it with mass audiences through various technologies, including blogs, websites and podcasts.

Borgia’s use of digital technology and storytelling in his acts is one reason he is so successful. One such story incorporates historical accounts of his ancestors, the infamous Borgia family and their political prominence in Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries.

“Storytelling isn’t something that magicians get asked about, so Bobby is excited,” said Sheridan. “Although unconventional, I thought bringing in a magician would give my students an interesting perspective to storytelling.”

Sheridan was inspired to bring in a magician after watching two documentaries on Netflix. As longtime friends, Sheridan could not think of anyone better than Borgia, an Erie-native, to bring a lesson about storytelling and digital technology to life.

Since the age of six, Borgia knew he wanted to be a magician. While he currently resides in Erie, Borgia has lived across the country, including in Los Angeles.

Notably, Borgia has performed in Las Vegas and at the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. Beyond performing, several television networks and musicians have hired him to consult as an illusion specialist. Borgia has worked with the Disney Channel, ABC, NBC, Discovery Channel and TLC. He has also designed stage illusions for artists like Destiny’s Child, Brian McKnight, Boyz 2 Men, Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre.

Since graduation is near for many of the students in Sheridan’s class, digital storytelling also offers students an opportunity to critically think about themselves. This course gives them another opportunity to discover their authentic selves.

“We are creating quality content that makes people care,” Sheridan said. “Authenticity is more important than anything, especially with millennials; they have this amazing sense of knowing when they are being sold to. They don’t like it.”

Sheridan hopes his students are inspired by Borgia, and that they realize the power and versatility that come with a skill in storytelling.

“No matter what field you go into, the ability to find stories and tell those stories effectively is an important skillset to have,” said Sheridan. “Our lives are stories. Everyone has a story to tell. It’s just a matter of being able to realize it.”