Master illusionist Arthur Trace creates a whimsical world of joyous deception

By Shanee Edwards

Arthur Trace is a master of manipulation — the magical kind

There are many situations in life when we desperately hope not to be deceived. Buying a car through Craigslist, a blind date through a dating app, even ordering the wild-caught salmon at a nice restaurant can be dicey. But there is one place where we absolutely expect and maybe even pray to be deceived: a magic show.

Master magician Arthur Trace returns to Venice this Saturday with “The Artful Deceiver,” a show that promises to stump even those with the most watchful of eyes. A summer performance was both clever and laugh-out-loud funny, especially when Trace engages with audience members.

Probably the most exciting part of the show is that it’s performed in a very intimate space, putting the audience within feet of the charming trickster, who makes you believe objects — like a pair of scissors on a rope — can magically appear out of nowhere. With all eyes on him, up-close and personal, there’s no room for error.

But Trace is artful — so artful, in fact, he’s a regular at the famed Magic Castle, where he’s been nominated twice for Stage Magician of the Year. He was also a winner for manipulation at the 2006 World Championships of Magic and has appeared on television shows such as “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” and “Masters of Illusion: Impossible Magic.”

While most of us might think of magicians as highly skilled manipulators of sleight of hand or experts at diverting attention away from where the actual deception is happening, Trace thinks of himself as a storyteller, adding his own voice to each piece of classical magic he invokes. His rope and card tricks all have a twist.

“To me magic is an art form and not just a craft — and by art form I mean a way
of expressing myself, my creative side. I enjoy showing the audience my world and things I’ve come up with,” he says.

During the show, Trace shares that as a kid he was inspired by the H. G. Wells book “The Invisible Man”: “I wasn’t able to make myself invisible, but I did have some luck with East African bees.”

As sound effects imply, the hum of buzzing bees hits the air while Trace opens up a jar. An invisible swarm has been released, so he takes a tissue and wraps it around one of the imperceptible insects. The tissue begins to buzz with life, darting around Trace as if a live bee were inside. The result is a cheeky game that delights the audience while offering no clues as to how the tissues are moving.

As masterful a storyteller as Trace is, sometimes the story goes in an unexpected direction. This was the case at a recent show at the Magic Castle where he called on a lady from the audience to assist him with a trick. To his surprise she burst into tears. When he asked why she was crying, she told him that ever since she was a little girl, she’d always wanted to be part of a magic show. She’d always wanted to be deceived.

“She had this emotional, instinctual reaction. It transfixed the entire theater,” recalls Trace. “They knew this was something important to be a part of. It was wonderful for me to be honored with that moment as well.”

The magician’s current show culminates with his award-winning bit that involves a magical post-modern painting that’s full of surprises. Here, at this moment (without giving away the details), Trace’s creativity is on full display as is his joy for magic. He has found his bliss and hopes the audience does, too.

“At the end of the show hopefully these pieces, this insight into my imagination, will entertain and wow the audience, allowing them to forget their worries. Hopefully, I’ve transported them into my world, a more whimsical, not literal, world like the one we currently live in. Whether being divided by politics, or if you were just diagnosed with cancer a week ago, hopefully art can do that, and that’s what I aim for with my magic.”

“The Artful Deceiver” is at 8 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 15) at Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. Tickets are $40, or $55 for the front row, at arthurtrace.com.

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