WASHINGTON, Ind. (AP) — For the past three years local magician Daniel Cullen has directed the Maze, a mystery performance that features a unique brand of mentalism not seen in typical magic shows. He also writes, performs for, and sometimes hosts, the show, which is billed as an experience that presents a unique blend of illusion, intuition, psychology, humor, mystery and danger.
With founder and magician Jim Munroe and magician Zak Mirzadeh, Cullen produces about two shows a week on college campuses. Last year during summer break the Maze went to London, Brussels and Berlin. In November, the three men performed on a cruise hosted by Christian radio station KLOVE, and they did three TV spots last year.
But the Maze isn't just about entertainment. About 1,000 students a week on college campuses across the nation sign up free at their show for Be The Match, a national bone marrow donor registry.
"For the most part, Jim is the main performer of the show and it's based around his experience with cancer," Cullen told the Washington Times-Herald (http://bit.ly/W5ixGF ). "We work with Be The Match because of that. We're the number one recruiters for Be the Match.
"Jim is a Christian who shares his testimony throughout the show."
Munroe also shares his story for I Am Second, an international movement designed to introduce the idea of restructuring life to put God and others first and self second. In his testimony, Munroe explains he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia that would continue to come back after every remission. Doctors wanted to do a bone marrow transplant, but Munroe's biological sister wasn't a close enough match.
They checked the 7-million-person bone marrow registry and came up with 16 possible matches; of those, there was one perfect match. A 19-year-old female was brave enough to give him what he needed to live, he said. Munroe first had chemotherapy to kill his cancerous blood cells.
"I was literally dying a death and then they brought that bag of blood into the room," he said. "The whole process was to get that new blood inside of me. Everyone was hoping my body would accept the new blood, and it did. And it slowly began to build a new immune system."
Now Munroe is 100 percent cancer free and has written a book, called "The Charlatan," about his experience. He describes it as the "true story of a Christian magician."
Before his life-threatening ordeal, Munroe was skeptical about God's existence. He said he asked God to reveal himself to him. During his treatment, he said, he kept hearing phrases about being born anew and being like a baby in the womb phrases he recalled from scripture.
"My life with Jesus has completely changed as a result of my darkest hour, and I'm actually thankful for having to go through it," Munroe said in his testimony.
"I'm thankful about who God is and what He did for me."
Cullen said the Maze shows are free, and he, Munroe and Mirzadeh do two or three hours of "street magic" beforehand to get people interested in attending. Cullen described street magic as card and coin tricks in the style of magician David Blaine.
Because Maze is not-for-profit, various organizations such as Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) raise money to bring them in. Anyone interested in partnering with Maze can contact Cullen at dan(at)whatisthemaze.com to find out more.
"Jim and Zak also raise support all year long to pay expenses," Cullen said. "We're getting a lot of recognition. His story is a very powerful story, and people are wanting to hear more about it. I would love to do something at one of the churches here, have his book and do a book signing."
The 2005 Washington High School graduate and son of Dr. Stephen and Sharon Cullen has been performing magic for 12 years since age 14 when he did walk-around performances.
"I did my first corporate show when I was 17," he said, explaining he made the leap to mentalism and now books himself as mind reader. "My first theater show was when I was 19."
He met Munroe at a magic conference in Las Vegas in 2008 before Munroe was diagnosed with cancer. Once Munroe was cancer free and performing again, he contacted Cullen to make guest appearances in his show. That was in 2010.
At a show at University of Southern California, the director couldn't make it, so Cullen filled in. It turned out he has a knack for it and now directs the Maze shows full time.
He still performs his own shows when he has free time from Maze, and currently has two new shows he's working on: a mind-reading show and a seance show. Though he's on the road much of the time, he still calls Washington home and recently did an hour-long, impromptu show at Knepp's after dinner one evening.
"I'm open to doing corporate stuff and shows at schools when I'm not working on Maze," Cullen said.
Information from: Washington Times-Herald, http://www.washtimesherald.com