Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and his team have been making top-notch entertainment appear on the stages of the Cultural District for many years. Now, McMahon and team have a new trick up their collective sleeves—a magic trick—actually many magic tricks. The Cultural Trust, in an exciting reveal party for media and invited guests Monday night, announced that they will open an intimate magic parlor in the former Arcade Comedy Theater spot that will be called Liberty Magic. Opening in February, the room will have fewer than 70 seats and only four rows in order to give audience members a close view of the magic tricks. McMahon called it “an immersive magic experience.”
“The Cultural District theaters were all once vaudeville entertainment houses and the world’s greatest magicians would play them as they toured the country,” McMahon said. “Top magicians have continued to perform in Pittsburgh over the years,” he continued, noting that Liberty Magic “broadens the appeal of Cultural District entertainment offerings even more.”
McMahon has tapped Scott Shiller, vice president for Artistic Planning, to lead the Trust’s new entertainment experience and also be the producer. Shiller said, ”I have been wanting to do this for ten years and the time is now right. I grew up with magic and would go to local magic shows. My father, a college professor, would aid magicians in honing their acts and sometimes I would go with him.” Shiller also mentioned that in 1916, legendary comedian Harry Houdini did a straitjacket escape on Liberty Avenue while hanging upside down by his feet. McMahon added that Shiller had the brilliant idea for the magic parlor and knows many talented magicians.
McMahon also said that having the right design for the entrance and space was critically important. The Trust has chosen noted local scenic designer Tony Ferrieri of City Theatre to develop Liberty Magic.
A Magical Night
At the reveal event there were amazing feats of sleight-of-hand magic, including card tricks replete with flying cards and chosen cards emerging from unusual places. Coin and string illusion tricks were also something to say “wow” over. Performing were the two artistic directors for Liberty Magic, Lee Terbosic and Dennis Watkins. The opening magician for Liberty Magic, Eric Jones (February 6 – March 17, 2019), was also on hand.
Pittsburgh native Lee Terbosic tours nationally and is in a new TV special coming out January 6 on Discovery’s Science Channel called “Houdini’s Lost Secrets.” Terbosic recreated the Houdini straitjacket escape in Pittsburgh in 2016 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the event. He has also appeared on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
In regard to Liberty Magic Terbosic said, “I liked the idea. It’s been a dream of mine since I was about 20 years old to have a magic parlor in Pittsburgh—the city that I love—for local and national magicians.” He continued, “It would be a great place for young magicians to come and see other magicians and possibly have some magic workshops for them.” In addition to several incredible card tricks, he also performed one that made the name of his upcoming new show “In Plain Sleight” to display several different ways on the edge of the stacked deck of cards after each shuffle. Terbosic will premiere “In Plain Sleight” at Liberty Magic on March 20 and it will run until May 12.
Texas native and now Chicago resident Dennis Watkins did several fantastic card tricks and a string trick, in which he cut a string into several pieces and somehow they all became one again. Watkins said that he is a third-generation magician, that his grandfather owned a magic shop, and that both his grandfather and uncle were magicians. He has appeared on Penn & Teller’s TV show “Fool Us.” Watkins has been doing a magic show in Chicago for seven years and said that there are more than a handful of magic parlors in that city.
Eric Jones, who was raised in Buckingham County, Virginia, and now lives in Philadelphia, has been performing magic for over ten years. Jones has appeared at the prestigious Magic Castle in Los Angeles, was in the off-Broadway show Monday Night Magic, and wowed the judges on season 12 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
At the reveal event he performed several astonishing card and coin tricks. For one trick he asked me to sign a card with my first name. I had trouble doing so with a ballpoint pen on a high-gloss card. After looking at my almost indecipherable name Jones asked if I was a doctor (comedy was a fun subtext to all the magicians’ acts). He then put the card back in the deck, and involving other audience participants made it magically appear in various places throughout the deck. Jones also made coins appear and disappear while working with other members of the audience. His show for the opening of Liberty Magic is titled Impossible.
McMahon called Liberty Magic a “Bargain BYOB” because you can bring your own booze to the intimate magic speakeasy. There is a five dollar per person corkage fee.
Liberty Magic offers general admission seating at $40 per ticket. Performances will be Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 6:30 p.m.
There is also a special Skeleton Key VIP Experience for $65, which unlocks the first two rows of the cozy theater for a chance to become part of the performance (if you wish), and gives you an exclusive meet and greet with the magician after the show which includes private, close-up tricks. Members of the Skeleton Key VIP Experience will also be able to purchase merchandise not available to the general public.
Liberty Magic is recommended for ages 18 and up; no one under 12 will be admitted. Cocktail or party attire is suggested. The venue also offers a special space for private groups. Liberty Magic is at 811 Liberty Avenue in the Cultural District. For tickets and more information visit the Trust Arts Liberty Magic web page or call (412) 456-6666.
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.