Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer
Billy Kidd hasn’t always been a magician. She’s been in show business—mainly acting—since the age of 11. But she wasn’t exposed to magic until 11 years ago when she saw a street festival performance by fellow magician, Nick Nickolas.
“It was literally his show that made me switch careers and go, ‘Hey, I think I’m in the wrong career, I think I need to become a magician,’” she says. Kidd’s magic residency, “Bridging the Gap,” runs from now until June 23 at Liberty Magic, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Downtown parlour magic venue. Kidd’s show—specifically designed for Liberty Magic—brings a theatrical flair to the intimate downtown venue, combining dry humor and sleight of hand magic that’s enjoyable for all ages.
Most magicians are self-taught, Kidd says. At the behest of Nickolas, she picked up The Royal Road to Card Magic, a book on card tricks, and began practicing and performing on the street, just as Nickolas did.
Kidd says performing on the street was “the best education I could have given myself. And from that exposure being a street performer, people would then go, ‘Oh can I book you for this event?’ And then it kind of grew from there.
Eventually, Kidd would go on to star in a variety of magic-based television shows, like Masters of Illusion on the CW, BBC’s Now You See It and the Discovery Channel series Breaking Magic.
There’s little research on the percentage of professional female magicians actively performing around the world, but a 2013 article in The Atlantic puts that number at around 3 to 8 percent.
Kidd says her position helps change that statistic.
“I’ve learned now that, because I’m a rare thing and in the industry, it does help younger people to see a female magician. It is, again, coming down to that exposure thing. If I never saw that magician I would have never become a magician,” she says.
Kidd says women who want to pursue a career in magic shouldn’t be held back from doing so.
“I don’t think it should be an issue for any other women who want to get into magic because you just do what you want to. Do what you love and whatever you’re passionate about so nothing else really matters,” she says.
Along with being the first female magician-in-residence at Liberty Magic, Kidd is also the first international magician. Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, says Kidd’s show brings this international experience onstage, which aligns with the Trust’s values.
“We’re very much about bringing the world to this city and vice versa,” he says.
According to Scott Shiller, vice president of artistic planning at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Liberty Magic producer, Kidd’s show evokes childlike wonder.
“What Billy has the ability to do onstage is to bring you to a place where you stop asking, ‘How did she do that?’ And you start saying to yourself, ‘I want to see more. I want to believe. I want to be a part of what’s happening tonight,’” he says.
Despite having a successful magic career, Kidd has never had a moment where she’s thought, “I’ve made it.” Instead, she focuses on the present, taking her career one day at a time.
“That’s kind of how I look at my career, going, ‘If I’m still doing this tomorrow, great. If I know what to do in the next 48 hours, even better,’” she says.