Chicago magicians struggle to keep magic alive amid coronavirus

The gig economy has virtually crushed every major means by which its workers can earn a living amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For some artists, even the magic is gone, at least in the traditional sense.

That’s why some Chicago magicians are keeping the art form alive in new ways.

magician/mindreader Denis Watkins is one of them.

Magic is literally in his DNA – he’s a third generation magician.

“I’ve practiced magic all my life; it’s the only real job I’ve ever had, and it’s definitely my career and the support of my family,” said Watkins, whose one-man show, “The Magic Parlor,” is featured at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel for 10 years.

“This show is a big part of my professional life. And the other part of my professional life is doing magic for high-end corporate events and private events all over the country, and booking entertainers to provide entertainment at similar events all over the country. country.

Watkins, like many live performers, has now made the transition to performing online instead.

“I was glued to the news feeds and reading all the incoming news on COVID-19 and stopping this and stopping that and … watching the shelter-in-place things that were [falling] in place. It got a little dark in my world for a few days,” Watkins said.

Now he presents “The magic living roomduring “Magic Mondays” on Instagram and also posts videos on his Facebook account, where he teaches viewers (ages 12 and up) how to do magic with items found around their homes. A salt shaker and napkins are used in a trick called “Coin across the table.” .

In another video, Watkins enlists her husband, Sean Kelly, who helps her perform a card trick where he shuffles the deck and works his way to find two cards that match Watkins’ prediction – a trick that viewers can also make it home with their families.

“It’s something I wanted to send during this time of quarantine when I know families are all home all the time, trying to find ways to engage and engage their imaginations and offer a little insight into my art,” he said.

Dennis Watkins of The Magic Parlor is a third generation magician.

Waukegan-based “hip-hop illusionist” Jibrizy does “man in the street” magic shows, where he raps while pulling cards from his nose and eating drink, among other tricks.

He also felt the pinch of losing gigs when the pandemic took effect. He had to cancel a planned trip to Egypt, and a corporate deal he was to perform in Las Vegas was put on hold.

“It sucks,” Jibrizy said. “In my job, I need people, an audience. Make a magic video online, rather than [in front of a live] the public is not like the same murder, so I was live on Instagram. There is no change; it’s an ongoing thing so people love it. … I really appreciate the fan support. And, in fact, when I’m live, my numbers have tripled.

The people at Chicago Magic Lounge have made a similar pivot to perform online broadcasts, via Zoom, an online conferencing service that has capitalized on the social distancing created by COVID-19.

“We spent a lot of time researching what to do right, so we immediately knew the world needed magic more than ever; the world needed bad guidance,” said Joey Cranford, CEO and co-owner of the Chicago Magic Lounge.

“We have a gift for people sitting at home right now. It was very cool. And the other really fun part of Zoom is that it’s as close to a show as you can imagine, so we send out the emails, announce the tickets are on sale, and sell the seats in 45 minutes approx.

“If the magician needs someone, the producers find that particular person, or maybe someone who has ‘hands up.’ And so a producer is now part of the talks, just watch and scroll and find that raised hand, spotlight them for a minute and get real-time live interaction.

Cranford says he’s trying to take care of his employees as best he can amid the pandemic. Many people who work in the service and hospitality industry have been made redundant.

“I made sure they would get a promise from me that they would get an extra paycheck,” Cranford said. “After all this we were closed when bars and restaurants were closed. We realized it was more important to community safety than keeping our shows running at full capacity. »

Chicago Magic Lounge Magician Paige Thompson been doing magic since the age of 6. Thompson, now 36, who performs online with the magic show, says people need magic more than ever and the reaction to Zoom broadcasts is proof of that.

“It was really refreshing to hear the feedback,” Thompson said. “The excitement and people are just happy to have something different to do, but it’s still interactive. That way they’re not watching Netflix for 40 hours, so it’s good that there’s a change of pace. I think for people who like to dress up and have a fancy cocktail party and watch a magic show, people want something unique to do right now.

Brian L. Hartfield