Liberty Magic: Magic on Liberty
“I know what you’re thinking.” It’s a common expression, an uncommon occurrence—you don’t actually know what somebody is thinking. Were that the case, we’d hardly do any thinking at all.
But Liberty Magic knows what you’re thinking.
This hidden gem is tucked away on Liberty Avenue, right in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. The 60-seat theater is wrapping up its first year of production, having showcased magicians from around the globe for six week residencies. They’ve been perfecting awe-inspiring, mind-bending acts with one common pursuit: elevating the art of magic.
How exactly did magic find its way here? According to Zoe Ruth, Liberty Magic venue manager for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, it’s been here for some time. Dangling high above Liberty Avenue in 1916, Harry Houdini performed his death-defying straightjacket escape to an audience of 20,000. “That kind of galvanized the fruition of Liberty Magic,” she said. “It drove us toward the finish line in getting a close-up magic theater developed here in Pittsburgh.”
Pittsburgh native and resident magician Lee Terbosic is more familiar with Houdini’s work than most. He traveled the world with George Hardeen, Houdini’s great-nephew, dissecting his most famous illusions. One hundred years later to the hour, Terbosic would recreate the same straightjacket stunt suspended above Liberty Avenue.
The theater itself is smaller than most—the farthest seat is maybe 15 feet away from the action. The intimacy only adds to the astonishment. “When someone can make a coin appear in front of your face, then disappear just a few inches away… that is the kind of meaningful experience an audience will take with them,” says Scott Shiller, producer and vice president of artistic planning.
It’s not white doves and top hats, either—these are trained performers, top-notch storytellers and entertainers. “Quintessential funny man” and current resident Derek Hughes has been a finalist on America’s Got Talent, and even played roles in Marvel productions including “Captain America.” Instagram star Anna DeGuzman arrives in March with lightning-fast card tricks. Mid-summer magician Zabrecky is a two-time Parlor Magician of the Year, deemed “sincerely funny and sincerely good” on Penn & Teller’s hit show, “Fool Us.”
From sleight-of-hand to mentalism and everything in-between, each show provides patrons with the unique opportunity to tap back into childhood wonder and amazement. For one hour, the same imaginative powers that let you to step into a world with a Tooth Fairy or a Santa Claus are rejuvenated.
And yet, it’s anything but childlike. A night out at Liberty Magic goes something like this:
You arrive armed with hyper-skepticism and a bottle of wine (it’s B.Y.O.B.).
Next, you’re impressed—you submit to the fact that whatever it is you’re witnessing, you could never do yourself.
Last, you let go—your mind admits to being wholly deceived, as you slip into a realm of accepting things you simply cannot comprehend.
“We want people to reconnect with not knowing how something is done, and be delighted by it at a dinner afterwards,” Shiller says. “That’s what live theater is at its core: giving you something to think about, challenging you, and providing a great conversation about what you just witnessed. The question then becomes, can audiences see this as an art form the same way they think of an opera or a Broadway performance?”
Dust off the corners of your mind that let your imagination wander. Carve out a night and go believe in the unbelievable again, if only for an hour.
Liberty Magic is located at 811 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222. Shows run Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit trustarts.org/pct_home/events/series/liberty-magic/shows