Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer
Although Pittsburgh has a rich history in the steel industry, there’s another, more mystical field that has a Steel City connection: magic.
As a publicity stunt before his performance at the New Davis Theater, renowned magician Harry Houdini performed his famous upside down, straight jacket escape 100 feet above the ground on the corner of Liberty Ave. and Wood St. on November 6, 1916.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust honors that history with Liberty Magic, an up-close, immersive arts experience-meets-speakeasy dedicated to sleight of hand tricks and parlor magic opening in February 2019 at 811 Liberty Ave.
“The whole premise of Liberty Magic is elevating the art of magic; taking magic and treating it with the same respect and the same artistry as we do cabaret, broadway, ballet, modern dance [and] comedy,” Scott Shiller, vice president of artistic planning for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Liberty Magic producer, said Monday at a press event.
According Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Liberty Magic was created after noticing the overall popularity of parlor magic nationwide and in Pittsburgh.
“Over the years, our magic program on New Year’s Eve has become the most popular form of entertainment each year for the last five or six years,” McMahon said. “We think the city is hungry for this kind of entertainment.”
Liberty Magic opens on February 6, 2019 with Eric Jones’ “Impossible,” an hour-long show featuring card tricks and an up-close, personal experience, according to Jones, whose residency ends March 17.
“For me as an artist, it allows me to see in the back of the room,” he said.
Pittsburgh native Lee Terbosic’s “In Plain Sleight” begins on March 20, continuing through May 12, combining magic, comedy, escape tricks, storytelling and, of course, sleight of hand magic.
Terbosic, who serves as Liberty Magic’s artistic advisor along with Dennis Watkins, a Chicago-based magician, said he plans to use his connections in the magic industry to bring the best of the best to his home city.
“My goal is to keep the level of the talent coming through the doors extremely high,” he said. “I want to give as many types of genres of magic an opportunity to be on a platform,” Terbosic said.
Seating at Liberty Magic will be limited, with the four-row auditorium seating fewer than 70 people. General admission tickets are $40, but Skeleton Key VIP tickets — priced at $65 — allow patrons to experience the magic from the first two rows, giving them a chance to be a part of the performance if they so choose. Skeleton Key VIP ticket holders also have access to a post-show meet-and-greet featuring private tricks, and can purchase merchandise not available to the general public.
Guests can bring their own beer, wine, cocktails or soft drinks to sip on while watching a show at Liberty Magic. There is a $5 per guest corkage fee.
Liberty Magic shows are recommended for ages 18 and up, and no one under 12 will be admitted to the show. There is no dress code for Liberty Magic, but the Cultural Trust encourages guests to dress in cocktail or party attire.
Terbosic, who recreated Houdini’s famous escape exactly 100 years later in 2016, said that Liberty Magic opens doors for magicians and guests, who get to be a part of a vibrant, unknown and, well, magical, history.
“This is so cool for not only the art of magic, but the art of magic in Pittsburgh,” he said.