Stage magicians are familiar faces on TV, and not unknown on local stages. But this week, Pittsburgh gets its first theater focusing solely on magic.
Liberty Magic, an intimate venue focusing on close-up, sleight-of-hand magic, opens Wednesday. The Downtown space, run by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, will feature performers doing multi-week residencies, with six shows weekly.
The inaugural performer is Eric Jones. The Philadelphia-based magician is well known from his numerous TV appearances doing coin and card tricks. He stumped Penn & Teller on their show “Fool Us,” and was a semi-finalist on “America’s Got Talent.”
Jones, who’s 37, is used to performing in large venues, and – with the aid of video cameras and large-screen projections – for audiences of up to 3,000. Liberty Magic seats just 66, but Jones said he enjoys such intimate settings.
“I’ll be able to almost reach out and touch the people in the back row, so everyone will be able to be involved,” Jones said by phone. “I do bring people on stage I go into the audience and perform completely surrounded, so if you do want an opportunity to try to catch me, you can look in my sleeve, you can look in my pockets, you can do everything and they still won’t be able to figure it out.”
His show is titled “Impossible.”
But if you’ve seen Jones only on TV, he said, there’s more to his act than card tricks and disappearing coins.
“There’s a lot of surprises that have not been viewed online or on television, that I’ve saved specifically for the Liberty Magic experience,” he said.
The show runs 60 minutes. “There’s going to be a lot of audience interaction,” Jones said. “The magic’s going to happen in the spectator’s hands. It’s very engaging, interactive, it’s personal and it’s a lot of fun.
Magic-only venues are rare in the U.S. The best-known are the venerable Magic Castle, a private club in Hollywood, and Monday Night Magic, in New York City. Last year, Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater opened near Philadelphia. The 60-seat theater draws top touring talent, said Jones, but it’s also helped the local magic scene there.
One benefit, he said, is giving magicians a place to perform near home rather than traveling constantly. Jones himself has done residencies in New York and Las Vegas, and worked Disney cruise ships.
Smoke & Mirrors “also has cultivated a culture where magicians gather in that area so that they can learn from each other,” he said.
Jones’ residency at Liberty Magic runs through March 17. Ticket info is here, including VIP options.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust provides funding for WESA.