During the day, she's an electro-optical engineer. At night, she's a magician and an entertainer.
"I love being a scientist, but I also love entertaining people," said Miller, who works for the U.S. Army Nightvision Labs at Fort Belvoir. "I'm working on land-mine detection, so I have a part in saving lives."
Yet, ever since she got hooked about 2 1/2 years ago, Miller has been honing her skills as a magician. She first saw magic up close when a visiting electrical engineer showed some tricks. "I was so interested that he asked me if I wanted him to mentor me," said Miller.
She agreed and began her foray into the art. Miller became even more excited about magic after she entered and won a contest put on by the local chapter of The Society of American Magicians.
"I spent so much time preparing for that," she said. Since then she has been in other contests and is now the president of the magic group.
Miller said that she has really learned a lot from the other magicians. Contrary to what people believe, magicians are very eager to share their tricks with each other. There are a few magic supply stores in the area, but Miller likes Al's Magic Shop in Washington, D.C. Al recently retired, but he was known as the best magic demonstrator around.
"The thing that makes people buy tricks is the demonstration," she said.
THE ONLY DOWNSIDE of magic are the nonbelievers. "One of the hard things you have to deal with are the skeptics. They don't want to be entertained; they're just trying to figure it out," said Miller. "It's not about magic, it's about the entertainment."
Most of the magic she has done so far has been at family parties and corporate events. She does stand-up magic, where she performs in front of a crowd, and also performs as a strolling magician. Most recently, she did walk-around magic at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Miller has also performed at the MCI Center during its fan-appreciation nights. As she did last year, she will perform on the stage at the Waterfront Festival this weekend.
"I like stand-up magic the most. I depend on audience reaction and like performing for a big group," she said.
Miller said that people are often surprised to see a female magician. "One of the things that surprises me is that women think that magic is too hard. It's really not. Anybody can learn it," she said.
Miller has added face painting and balloon sculpture to her repertoire. She's been developing some ornate seven-balloon sculptures but just does the simpler ones for parties. She enjoys face painting and finds it very relaxing. "I love it when I show them their face [after I've painted it] and they light up," she said.
For the most part, Miller tries to keep her magic life separate from her day job, although she finds that if she goes out to lunch with co-workers, they want a magic trick. "I keep some in my purse, just in case," she said.
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