Before the chasm between fact and delusion became a defining feature of our shared experience of life, illusion—otherwise known as the art of magic—was performed on stage and on the street for the amazement and enjoyment of audiences around the globe.
Magic as entertainment has been going on for hundreds—some would say thousands—of years. Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, who began as a watchmaker and parlayed those skills into the creation of complicated illusions, is considered the “father of modern magic” and is credited for bringing the magician's act in from the streets and into theatres. He died in 1871, and was the inspiration for the great escape artist and King of Cards, Harry Houdini, who took his predecessor's name to honor him. Other well-known magicians include Alexander Herrmann, who was one of the first to pull out a live rabbit from a hat; Harry Blackstone, who was the first to saw his assistant in half; and Dai Vernon, whose skill with cards was such that he baffled even the great Houdini.
Street magic is generally close work—legerdemain, or sleight of hand—which includes (but is not limited to) work with cards, coins, cups and balls, and scarves. This is sometimes known as pocket magic, or hand magic, and it is often followed by a pass-the-hat. Stage magic allows for what is commonly referred to as “smoke and mirrors.”
The Illusionists—Live from Broadway is a modern, high-tech show featuring five master magicians onstage at Century II concert hall on January 30th and 31st. If you see this show, don't be tardy—latecomers will not be allowed to enter while an illusion is in process.