Courtney Surmanek            


Photographer: Hugo Rojas

Magic Show MC: Cecilia Lim
Magician 1: Courtney Surmanek
ICE Agent/Statue of Liberty: Felicia Liang
Magician 2: Laura Allcorn
History Demonstrators: Sharon Taylor, Marissa Wilkins, Travis Mushett
Magic School Recruiters: Tsering Lama, Adriana Guzmán, Lizania Cruz
Lead Jingle Singer: Katie Henry
Cheering Section: Katie Henry, Hugo Rojas, Stephen Duncombe, Steve Lambert
Guitar/Deescalation Agent: Steve Lambert


Queens Hate-Free School of Magic and Wizardry

Co-Director, Co-Writer, Performer


New Executive Order 13769: The President of the United States likes to try this magic trick. But he gets it wrong! So, so wrong! Well, guess what? I just made *all* of us the President. (You’re the President! You’re the President! You’re the President!) I bet we could get this magic trick right! But I'm going to need some help. Think about the following...

1.) your favorite feeling
2.) a group of people you represent
3.) what the country needs
4.) what you want to eat right now

By the authority invested in us as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, we hereby declare:

We all love to feel __(1)_______________ in the USA.

All __(2)_______________ who enter the US offer lots of __(3)_______________ to the public.

In return, they shall be given a billion __(4)_______________ by the government as a thank you.

Throughout October 2019, I participated in the Center for Artistic Activism's Art Action Academy in partnership with the Queens Museum and its Open A.I.R Artist Services Program. In the last two days of the training, the group, steeped in the history, theory, and examples of what works in creative activism, staged an interactive magic show as the "Queens Hate-Free School of Magic and Wizardry" in the Jackson Heights 74th Street subway station. This guerrilla magic show in defense of immigrant rights took place at a busy subway stop in Jackson Heights, NY. We used humor, costume, and interactive game-play to reveal the enduring power of local communities, in particular immigrants, to rise up against violations of human rights and dignity.

During the show, we staged several “visual fantasies”, including “The Transformation of the Law”. To begin this section of the show, we performed a spell that gave all audience members the power of the Presidency. We then displayed the introductory section from Executive Order 13769, referred to as the “Muslim Ban”, on a life-sized poster board in a mad-lib format. Racially charged slurs were replaced with options for new verbiage. The text above is an excerpt from this section of the script. Feel free to use it the next time you wield a magic wand.

What are your thoughts on the intersections between social activism and artistic practice?