In Which A Strange Magic Visits The Cameo Theatre

Many of us, if not most, have at one point or other in our lives shared a fascination with magic and magicians.  And many of us, if not most, may outgrow that.

This story is about what happens when you don’t.

For as long as I’ve known Nikki, she’s been one of those who held on to that childhood love of magic.  If you’ve ever seen her react to a new magician, a new illusion, then you know her sense of wonder is absolutely genuine.  So when she told me a few years ago about her dream of producing a full-scale magic show here in San Antonio, I really had no doubt that she’d eventually pull it off.

Everything started coming together in the last few months, when (after Romantic Fools and The Love List) she joined forces once again with the Cameo Theatre to host the show.  With a venue in place, a date soon followed: March 24, the birthday of one Erik Weisz, a magician who gained some measure of fame as Harry Houdini.  From that foundation, aided by Rolando Medina (a longtime friend of Nikki’s, and a master of the carnival geek trick), we set about finding our performers.

Alexander The Greatest.  Jonah Garcia.  Doug GormanJoe LibbyJohn O’BryantTim St. John.  And Richard Turner.  A dream team of local illusionists, these seven would be our first Maniacs of Magic.  With Roman Garcia as MC and Rebecca Steele as The Lovely Assistant, we had a very strong cast.

Our offstage crew was just as strong.  Michael Patrick signed on to handle the video feed that would allow everyone, wherever their seats, a close-up view of the action.  Dru Barcus stepped up to run our sound and lights.  And I returned to the Cameo’s backstage as production/stage manager.  So, as our magicians began to build and perfect their routines, we began to assemble all the elements to build and perfect their presentation.  Through photo shoots and production meetings and a day-of run-through, we hoped the results of our work would capture people’s interest.

In retrospect, we may have underestimated said interest…

The Cameo arranged for a Groupon deal that sold out within two days.  The full-price tickets didn’t last much longer than that.  No sooner had we begun to spread the word on Maniacs of Magic than we had two – I repeat, TWO – standing-room-only performances.  Houdini’s birthday was going to be a big day indeed.

And so that day arrived.  Cast, crew, props, and equipment were in place. For our house music, Oscar Laun assembled a playlist of magic-themed songs (including an ELO classic that inspired this post’s title).  And I was ready backstage, in a costume that made me feel like a minor Time Lord (I even added a sonic screwdriver to carry inside my coat).  It was time to give the audience our best.

When it comes to magic, there’s no substitute for the live experience, so that audience was as much in the moment as we were.  From Alexander’s rope tricks to Jonah’s street magic, from Doug’s multiplying bottles to John’s attempts at crafting a balloon animal, from Richard Turner’s card mastery to Tim’s straitjacket/unicycle escape (aided by a late addition to the cast: me, as… well, Not The Lovely Assistant) to Joe’s banter with his puppet friend Sagebrush, they laughed and screamed and applauded through the entire show.  It was really gratifying to see all our hard work come together as it did, and to feel the audience appreciate it as they did.

Thanks to everyone who made those first shows possible.  Thanks to our amazing performers, our top-of-their-game crew, and everyone at the Cameo.  Thanks to everyone who bought those early tickets and helped spread the word.  Thanks to everyone who couldn’t make it, but still supported us with their well-wishes and reposts.

And, finally, thanks above all to Nikki.  This was your idea, that dream you never outgrew, and it means a lot that you shared it with us and gave us a chance to help make it happen.  It was a fantastic experience.

Based on our initial reception, I have a good feeling that the Maniacs of Magic will return, and we’ll keep you posted on when and where and who and how and all the rest of it.  Until then, “be seeing you…”

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