Andrea Morabito for the Arizona Daily Star
At a time when JK Rowling was a student at the University of Exeter and Hogwarts was about to become a thing, John Shryock and his team of magicians were already performing in the theaters of Tucson.
The first “Stars of Magic” show was held in 1988; the 34th, presented by Shryock and the Tucson Chapter of the Society of American Magicians, takes place Saturday, August 13 at the Berger Performing Arts Center. The show will feature 11 magicians performing for two hours.
“There will be manipulators, sleight of hand guys, big illusions, mentalism,” Shryock said. “Every year we work hard to invent new tricks and make them as good as possible.”
People also read…
Shryock’s passion for magic dates back to his childhood.
“My dad bought me a magic set for Christmas when I was 16,” he said in a Zoom interview from his Tucson home. “Most of us are given a magic set at some point in our lives, and for some of us it bites a little. I started doing tricks for friends and family and a few months later later I was working at Chuck E. Cheese, all my buddies were making pizza and I was there doing card tricks for the kids.
Shryock had never intended to turn his passion for magic into a career. But the more he performed, the more gigs he got at comedy and magic clubs in Tucson and far beyond.
He has performed at prestigious venues in more than 100 cities on four continents, including the Magic Castle in Hollywood, where he made his debut when he was just 21 years old.
“It was a big deal. I was nervous and excited,” Shryock recalled. “It was the accomplishment of a goal, like when I first played at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas or on a cruise ship.”
At 24, he met his wife, Mari Lynn, who was his stage partner.
“We’re developing new stuff all the time,” Shryock said. “At the ‘Stars of Magic’ show, we’ll be performing a trick we’ve never done before.”
Shryock towers have evolved with the help of technology.
“It’s becoming more of a part of the profession,” Shryock said. “We control all the music and lights with remote controls that I keep in my ankles, for example. It helps a lot, although most of the cheats don’t rely on technology.
Shryock and his wife have regular jobs at a club in Mali, where they spend about six months a year, going back and forth every three weeks. They spend the rest of the time in Tucson or around the world, performing for private events and clubs.
“I remember one time my wife and I were playing at a club in Houston called Magic Island,” Shryock recalled. “The finale of our show was a trick called ‘Metamorphosis,’ invented by Houdini. The idea is that I’m locked in a box, she stands on it with a curtain, she throws the curtain down and like magic we switch places Without revealing anything, at one point we were very close and moving very fast and accidentally she nudged me in the eye The eyebrow split and I seemed to spring from the blood. The crowd didn’t even know what to think. It was the end of the show, and they just thought it was part of it.
Shryock has been a member of the Society of American Magicians for nearly 40 years. The society, founded in 1902, has thousands of members and chapters across the country. The Tucson chapter has approximately 30-40 members.
Saturday’s show is at 7 p.m. at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway, Arizona Schools for the Deaf and Blind.
Other artists featured include Valerie Spell, Rodney and Kimberlee Housley, Benny James, Norm Marini, Art Trillo, Gabe Lim, Don MacInnis, Ross the Magician & Julia, Stephen Levine and The GMAN.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for children under 12 in advance via starsofmagicshow.com. It’s $23 for adults, $19 for children at the door.
Andrea Morabito is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticed with the Star.