Peeking Behind the Curtain With Cast Members of Now You See Me
For the first time ever, we are pleased to present an evening of theater, magic, and storytelling — all in one night, and all on one stage!
At Now You See Me, astonishing illusionists will entertain audiences with both tricks and stories as a way of illuminating the complexities of masculinity and race. The show is part of Commonspace LIVE, a collaboration with WHYY dedicated to sharing remarkable stories that speak to the pressing issues of our time.
To get a better idea of how these three art forms will collide in this genre-defying performance, we went behind the scenes with two magicians and cast members, Randy (Ran’D) Shine, and Fred Siegel.
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FPA: Full disclosure: magic layperson here! Say “magic” and I immediately think of Houdini and Copperfield, so please don’t saw me in half or make me disappear! You both know a lot about the history of magic, and are working to shape the future of the craft. Can you please help bring us into the 21st century of magic?
Fred: It’s like everything else. We’re dealing with the changes that social media and other digital communication produces. Today we learn differently and socialize differently. If technology is having an effect on young magicians, it’s making them technically more proficient, but perhaps a little less able to deal with live audiences. Also, the other issue in our art form is the same as the issues in our world — we are working towards greater diversity in race, nationality, and gender.
FPA: It’s challenging to draft an interview for a magician, because there are a number of questions that are inherently off-limits by nature of the art of illusion. Is there something you’d be inclined to share about what happens “behind the curtain” that doesn’t compromise the integrity of your craft? A mindset, perhaps?
Ran’D: I often tell people 10% of what I do is on stage, and 90% of what I do is off stage. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into performing. I am probably more of an entrepreneur than a magician. When it comes to the performance, my friend and fellow magician, Spidey, said it best: “Magic is the art of practicing something for years in order for no one to know you ever practiced.”
FPA: As a magician, you’re all about tricking and misleading the audience. But here at First Person Arts and Commonspace, we are all about truth-telling. How will you use illusion to help us expose the truth in your story?
Ran’D: The tricks that I will perform in the show are just visual illustrations of true stories about my life as a magician. The tricks complement the story.
Fred: My truth is that I am fascinated by trickery. I find it beautiful. A good magic trick can make me laugh, and shout, and cry. The context in which I most enjoy performing my magic is in my memoir show, Man of Mystery. I do tricks, but they are embedded in true stories about my life.
FPA: What’s it been like to prepare for this magic/storytelling show? How has it been different and similar to preparing for your past magic appearances?
Ran’D: This is my first storytelling show, and anytime an artist steps out of his/her comfort zone to explore different forms of expression, I considered it growth. I am definitely out of my “zone,” but I am growing. I’m learning a new skill set, and that’s rewarding. Good storytelling is more than just getting up on stage and recounting something from your past. There are techniques and theatrical tools used to make a story great and engaging. I also found this to be therapeutic. It has given me a chance to sit back and think about this journey of being a magician, the encounters I have had with people, and what that means beyond being a performer.
Fred: Though this is not my first storytelling event with First Person Arts [Video Here], this process is different for me since I am not at the center of everything. I’m usually the writer and performer and director. Now, I am on a team. It’s a good thing.
FPA: What can magic teach us about ourselves?
Ran’D: There is beauty in not knowing. Anything is possible. Perception and reality are sometimes indistinguishable.
Fred: One day, half a lifetime ago, I was working on a beautiful magic trick where a little ball seems to jump from one half walnut shell to another. A young woman I really liked was coming over, so I left the shells carelessly sitting on the table in hopes that she would ask about them. and I could show her this beautiful trick. When she got there, I tried to steer the conversation to the shells, but she gave a skeptical, even annoyed, look. Then she said, “It’s really important to you to fool people, isn’t it?” I had to admit that it was.
Event Details: Now You See Me
DATE Thursday, May 25
TIMES 7PM Doors, 8PM Show
TICKETS $10 – or – $7 for members of WHYY, First Person Arts, and FringeArts | BUY
For one night only, three astonishing illusionists tantalize audiences with the mysteries of masculinity and race. Be mesmerized by their tricks, stunts, and stories, and leave questioning what is real, and what is really illusion.
Directed by Mason Rosenthal
Pictured: Ran’D Shine. Credit: Zamani Feelings
Interview by Kathleen Lafferty, FPA Intern