Maintaining Chicago’s Magical Spirit
Magicians have amazed onlookers for thousands of years and were prominent in Egypt, Persia, and Europe. Over the centuries, there have been brief periods of time where the skills of prestidigitators were connected to the occult, but these episodes were, thankfully, brief. For the majority of audiences, the sleight of hand skills of the best magicians makes it possible to suspend reality and believe (even as an adult) that magic might actually be real.
Arriving on Stage
Most demonstrations of early magic were done on street corners or in booths at a local fair. Many of the tricks were designed to make spectators’ money disappear more than anything else. It was in the very early part of the nineteenth century when magic acts finally made it to the stage and became a respected form of entertainment. Many well-respected magicians appeared during this period of time.
Modernizing the Art
The man who took magic from the street to the stages was known as the “father of modern magic.” Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin not only displayed a genuine flair as a showman, but he also mixed new technology with magic. He was the first to include electricity and modern equipment into his magic acts. This innovative approach is what made him so appealing and respectable to French audiences. He eventually ran a theater in Paris that showcased only magic acts and once even used his magical skills to aid the French government by calming an Algerian revolt.
Advancing the Art
Three years after Robert-Houdin passed away, arguably the most famous of all magicians was born, and he happily renamed himself after his predecessor. Harry Houdini entered the world in 1874 and did as much to increase the popularity of magic as he did in setting the standard for exciting a crowd. A young Harry traveled with a friend to Chicago to perform during the 1893 World’s Fair as the “Brothers Houdini.” While in the city, they also performed in Houdini’s first big show. The event took place at the Hopkins Theater, and that single night at the popular vaudeville house convinced the young illusionist that this was the career he wanted to pursue.
Continuing the Tradition
For over 100 years, Chicago has continued to be one of the best places in the country to enjoy a spectacular magic show. Locations around the city have placed some of the most skilled magicians in the world on their stages. Numerous locations offered the skills of talented performers throughout the nineteenth century, and modern event centers and clubs help to maintain that same level of quality shows today.
Chicago has the magic talent available regardless of what type of experiences people desire. There are escape artists, those that have mastered card tricks, and brilliant mentalist displays. Some use humor, and others add special effects. Magicians enjoy encouraging the crowd to get involved, and there are many that want the crowd to become an actual part of the act. Children love magicians because it appeals to the part of them that believes anything is possible. Adults love magicians because it makes them believe in a suspension of reality and brings out a their childish sense of curiosity. A good magician makes it easy for adults to feel that way too.