A sold-out Zoom magic show offers a secret way to “enter.”
After selling out the entire 24-week series of The present at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, the interactive magic show offers a final gift to those who wish to see it: the final performance will be open to all.
At the start of the pandemic, illusionist Helder Guimarães found a way to captivate audiences via Zoom by sending out a “mystery box” ahead of time, so attendees could experience the magic from home. The trick worked. The production reserved its 25 night spots for each date, even after extending the run three times.
For the Saturday, October 17 finale, The Geffen is offering $25 tickets for live Zoomers around the world, with a $15 upgrade option to purchase a lite version of the original Mystery Box. For an additional $10, you’ll be entered into a lottery to join 24 other households interacting directly with Helder that night. All donations for the finale go directly to COVID-19 emergency relief funds for The Actors Fund and the Arts Administrators of Color Network. Tickets for the final will go on sale next Wednesday, September 2 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.
The present is told through the lens of Guimarães’ personal story of being quarantined as a child after a car accident. The 70-minute sleight-of-hand performance begins with the magician explaining how his love of close-up magic dates back to this period of recovery and the lasting influence of his grandfather.
The ta-da moment arrives before the performance, by means of a cardboard box sealed and tied with string and sent by US mail. It contains an unopened deck of Bicycle playing cards, a number that identifies you during the show, and several other small items. On Guimarães’ instructions, participants open the box and partake with him as you would if he summoned you to his close-up magic table in a Victorian-era living room somewhere.
Guimarães is a world champion in magic, twice parlor magician of the year by the Academy of Magical Arts and winner of the Ascanio Prize. Hid TED Talk on the Magical Search for a Coincidence has been viewed over two million times.
Part of the show’s appeal is how it takes away the monotony of quarantine. Guimarães is an engaging host and presence, and sometimes makes you forget you’re not sitting in a crowded theater (sigh, remember?).
The present is directed by Hollywood producer Frank Marshall (Jason Bourne, The Sixth Sense).
The pivot to Zoom is part of a successful strategy for Geffen, which recently rebranded itself as Geffen Stayhouse. The theater releases original content from various Geffen alumni and theater artists every Wednesday. Viewers can also watch full productions of past Geffen Playhouse shows, via BroadwayHD.com, including Long day trip into night with Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek; Thomas Painwith Rainn Wilson (Office), and LionBenjamin Scheuer’s poignant one-man musical about love and loss.
The enigmatic, described as an “immersive experience of puzzles, cryptology and illusions” by New York Times crossword puzzle maker David Kwong, has delayed its premiere at The Geffen because of Covid. The dates have not yet been announced.