Toronto’s Luminato Festival is a big deal. Each summer, hundreds of performing artists are invited to Toronto to participate in a 10-day celebration of the arts. Since the festival’s inception seven years ago, “magic” has been included in the programming thanks to the efforts of David Ben and Julie Eng. International stars of magic such as Juan Tamariz, Max Maven and Mac King have performed their full shows there in previous years.
This year I was asked to present “Chamber Magic®” at Luminato, and I’m glad I accepted the invitation. On June 17, 18 and 19, I performed six shows (two each night) at the George Brown house, a National Historic Site that usually is off-limits to the public. The house was completed in 1876 and restored to its former glory – an excellent location for my old-school brand of parlor magic. In fact, the show was situated right in George Brown’s parlor — you can’t beat that!
Canadians are all aware of George Brown as the prominent Father of the Confederation, politician, and founder of the national newspaper The Toronto Globe, now known as The Globe and Mail.
Here are some snapshots of the exterior of his house:
When attendees entered the foyer, they were met by Luminato staff who directed them to the showroom.
On opening night, there were three reporters at the show, and I could feel the excitement in the room. Fortunately everything “clicked” and both shows that night were “hot.” Not only were the audiences lively and enthusiastic, but the room itself also happened to be brutally hot! Since the house is 137 years old, its ventilation system was not working, and I was soaked in sweat by the end of the night. There’s nothing like a sopping wet tuxedo! We remedied this on nights two and three, with a portable and silent floor fan that provided circulation and relief.
Fortunately the reporters weren’t phased by the heat, and wrote some seriously positive reviews of the show. Here are some excerpts:
Steve Cohen’s Magic is !Omigawd!
“Steve Cohen tricks you into feeling wonder-full. When he guesses that your last vacation was scuba diving in the Marquesas, or asks if the card in your pocket is the 4 of clubs, your doubts about him vanish, and instead of answering YES, you shout OMIGAWD!
“Steve’s impeccable skills, bouyant personality, and the elegance of his presentation are what make his close-up conjuring such wonderful fun. What Steve Cohen does is art because for a while, in his room, as part of his audience, the world feels golden with possibilities.”
All Wonder & Delight
“I got the sense that Cohen, a graduate of prestigious schools, must have loved magic so much – to the exclusion of all other things – that he chose to pursue it professionally. His love shows in the work. He’s buoyantly happy to be performing, twinkling with delight as he shows us card tricks, mentalism, and other close magic. It’s clear that he’s in his happy place as he gathers the audience close to watch, really watch, watch from a foot away as he makes cards perform miraculous feats – including re-arrange themselves inside a box, inside my blazer’s pocket, into precisely the same order as the cards in the box in the blazer pocket of a guy standing six feet away from me. It was amazing to watch.
“Now, please understand: this isn’t flash-of-smoke-and-Neil-Patrick-Harris-disappears magic. You won’t see any doves, bunnies, glass tanks of water, straightjackets, or eyeliner on display at the intimate George Brown House show. Just a cheerful-looking bespectacled guy in nicely cut morning clothes, with a carrying light tenor voice and extraordinary prestidigitation skills, prepared to let you feel like a kid again in the best possible way, all wonder and delight.”
David Ben and I were invited to be panelists for a Lunchtime Illuminations discussion, as part of the Luminato Festival. We were joined onstage with John Placko, a molecular gastronomy chef who showed us some of his own magic. He changed the flavor of lemons from sour to sweet, changed the flavor of a newly-opened bottle of red wine (using nano-technology!), and fed us liquid nitrogen ice cream that was pretty damn good. The ice cream was so cold, though, that my tongue stuck to it and it took a few seconds to release. Now that’s magic.
Magicana also invited two other magic acts from Spain to participate in Luminato this year.
I met up with Miguel Puga after his final stage show:
And I also was happy to see Rafael Benetar in my final show at Luminato. His show “Compositions” began after I left Toronto so I unfortunately missed his performance of music and magic:
Finally, I felt obliged to drink some Canada Dry while actually in Canada…
And I had my very first visit to Tim Horton’s donut shop and tried their coffee and a maple donut…
Thank you David Ben and Julie Eng for your hospitality, friendship and support. Thank you to Suley for making sure that everything that was supposed to happen, happened. Thank you to Allan Slaight for visiting the show, and for enabling Magicana to produce these shows every year. And thank you Canada for providing a clean, friendly and upbeat environment for artists like me to visit.
Performance photos and Lunchtime Illumination photos courtesy of LUMINATO FESTIVAL and MAGICANA.
Performance photos by David Linsell