UT sophomore, mentalist performs on South Congress under moniker, “The Girl Who Knows”

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Sofia Dyer, Plan II and Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies sophomore, performs her mentalism act in front of Tesoros on South Congress on April 10. Dyer and her father are there every Friday to entertain passersby and raise money for Sofia’s college tuition.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The Tower bell rings Friday afternoon, and Sofia Dyer is finished with classes. Rather than hopping into bed for a well-deserved Netflix marathon, Sofia grabs a blindfold, puts on her turban and makes her way down to the corner of Elizabeth Street and South Congress Avenue. For the next three hours, she will perform on the street as the state’s youngest mind reader.

“It was a really nuts idea,” Sofia, a Plan II and Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies sophomore, said. “The idea of going out on South Congress with a turban on in the middle of the day and getting people to try and stop so that you can read their mind. That’s nuts.”

Sofia began her career in magic and the allied arts, which includes sword-swallowing, juggling, acrobatics and fire-eating, when she was nine years old. At first, she and her dad held séances for friends and family. Later, she moved on to magic shows and, finally, to performing acts of mentalism on the streets as “The Girl Who Knows.” 

Sofia performs at 6 p.m. every Friday. Her act includes guessing cards, random audience objects and serial numbers on dollar bills while wearing a blindfold. She performs alongside her magic-loving father, Jake Dyer, who gathers the crowd and collects tips as the “bottler.”

“The one thing that we stress is that it’s all for fun, and we do this for entertainment purposes,” Jake said. “What we do is in this very weird gray area. We don’t want to be accused of being charlatans or the people out there who take advantage of others’ emotions.”

Sofia said she did not inherit her mentalism from a kooky, psychic grandmother but, rather, from her upbringing in a household that encouraged magic. 

During the act, Jake asks the audience to focus on a card or object that Sofia has never seen before. Sofia then tries to guess the card based on the impressions she receives from the energy of a group of minds focusing on a single object.

Sometimes she’s wrong, but, more often than not, she guesses correctly.

Sofia became interested in busking, or performing on the street for money, when she unintentionally drew a crowd while doing tricks for her friends at the Pecan Street Festival in 2011.

Later that year, she and her father set up on South Congress Avenue. They said their first audience members were the cops who told them to leave.

The next week, the duo returned and successfully made it through a performance. Since then, both the show and Sofia’s abilities have developed. In the beginning, Sofia said she tried various characters for her show that didn’t work. Did she want to be the serious mentalist or the tortured genius mentalist? She eventually settled on a character with a personality reminiscent of her own.

“I think when I started, I was the shy, incredibly awkward ‘Girl Who Knows,’” Sofia said. “But I hope that I have become the shy, mysterious ‘Girl Who Knows.’ The character is very much a reflection of me, and I am very much a reflection of that character.”

Despite this closeness, Sofia manages to keep her life as a mentalist separate from her life as a student.

“It’s odd how easily I have been able to keep these two parts of my life very separate,” Sofia said. “I have my mentalism, but I don’t feel like it overwhelms my everyday life. It’s pretty nice.”

Sofia will perform at the Monday Night Magic Showcase at Dozen Street at 7 p.m. on Monday. The free show will open the stage to guests, similar to an open-mic format, and feature seasoned performers of magic and the allied arts as well.

Like her weekly performances on South Congress Avenue, Sofia said Monday’s show is an opportunity to have fun and get exposure.

“It’s an expression of art and creativity,” Sofia said. “What we are doing is entertainment — we are not trying to talk about some pseudoscience or explain the unknown. We’re there for the crowds, and we’re there for fun.”