Westside magician practices mentalism to connect with audiences
By Bridgette M. Redman
Jackson Ridd typically introduces himself as a mentalist who connects with people through their thoughts and feelings. He books himself as a paranormal entertainer who taps into mysteries from the other side of reality — that he has strong premonitions of the future. He performs his acts of mentalism in magic shows where he involves the audience with his mind-reading tricks.
“Whoever my audience is in any given show, I really like to connect with them, talk about them, see what they are thinking about, see what is going on in their life in a way,” Ridd said. “I really enjoy bringing it out. It makes performing fun.”
He recently performed in Culver City and will be returning to Citizen Public Market every second Thursday to perform in and host Westside Magic. Every performance is different even when he is using the same framework, because each person brings different vibes.
“I focus mostly on what the audience is thinking and bringing to the table,” Ridd said.
An honest connection
Ridd likes to start out with a very old piece of mentalism, something he described as a foundational piece. He gives everyone pieces of paper and they write down questions, fold them and put them into a bowl. He grabs one, reads the question and tries to discern who wrote it, what the question is about and maybe try to answer it.
Mentalism is a genre of performance that Ridd enjoys because he feels he gets to be honest and genuine with the things that he is saying and doing, something he believes the audience can feel. He works hard to pay attention and to remove things that don’t feel right in the moment or to change direction if he’s not getting the appropriate energy from the audience.
“It’s about being flexible and honest,” Ridd said. “I think that attracts people because it feels very open and live. The ability to play around is exciting and it’s why we go to live performances. We go to see something unexpected in the moment and to know that we can affect change in the moment as an audience.”
Childhood games fed into interest in magic
Ridd traces his interest in mentalism back to his youth. He was raised by parents who were spiritual — interested in ritualistic divinations, pendulum work and tarot readings. He engaged with occult practices such as mirror gazing, casting rituals and accessing secrets of the subconscious.
“You are looking at yourself through a different lens,” Ridd said. “You’re focusing on metaphysical techniques as a tool to look further inwards and figure out what is going on in your own mind and to connect to your subconsciousness.”
Ridd recalled that when he was 9 or 10, he and his dad would play a game where they would try to guess what the other was thinking. It was a different version of 20 questions — they would pay attention to what the other was putting out non-verbally and try to figure out the other’s thoughts.
When Ridd got to high school, someone showed him a magic card trick and it instantly appealed to him.
“I love working with my hands and working on things,” Ridd said. “I just naturally fell into card magic and learning how to execute different flights, plots and methods.”
While Ridd enjoyed the theatricality of card tricks, he wasn’t quite satisfied. He felt like he was 90 percent of the way to what he was supposed to be doing, but wasn’t quite where he should be.
“All the time I was doing this, it felt like I was scratching an itch but I wasn’t all the way there,” Ridd said. “It never felt like I was doing what I should be in that moment and I never felt fully satisfied until I started boomeranging back around to what I was initially interested in as a kid.”
Once he figured out how to present that on stage, Ridd felt he had arrived and was more fulfilled. It was mentalism that provided a sense of mystery and elicited the type of theatricality that is present in magic as an entertainment piece. He continues to research paranormal phenomena to bring arcane techniques he learns from them to the stage.
Feedback plays critical role in performance
“I definitely enjoy an audience that is willing to fully, honestly and openly engage in the moment,” Ridd said. “It is fun for myself personally to be able to identify a true connection and have that feedback from the audience. I could be talking about things and unless I get a reaction, I’m not going to know whether it is resonating for them the way I understand it to be.”
Some of the moments Ridd enjoys most are when he’s describing someone and they or their friends will say that it sounds exactly like them. Sometimes after a show, people ask how he knew what they were going through with their job or how he knew they were looking for new work.
“Those moments verify that I was on the right track,” Ridd said. “Live performance is an energy cycle. I’m going to give and get something. I hope you appreciate what I give you and that what you get is extremely fulfilling on a personal level. To know that the audience enjoyed it and that it resonated with them really comes back to me.”
For now, Ridd is very satisfied with the work that he is doing and is looking for ways to do it bigger and better — to reach more people and to make every time better than the last. He has ideas brewing about performing in a large concert hall or on video, but he hasn’t nailed down what the format will be. He does, though, know the feeling he wants to elicit.
Pandemic presented time to do non-magical things
When he was unable to perform, the pandemic was a formative time for Ridd. He pursued things that were important to him that he hadn’t had time to do. He engaged in random hobbies and learned new skills that he was excited about.
When Ridd scheduled his first show after a long pandemic break, he was concerned that it wasn’t going to go well because he was out of practice. Instead, the opposite occurred.
“When I stepped on stage, I felt more right than I ever have,” Ridd said. “The way I truly felt was that stepping away and enriching my own life, love and the connections I have with the people around me and my inner self came back to stir my career. I tapped into all those feelings and brought it on stage. As much as I love what I do, it’s work. You have to put in the hours and you’re not always excited about it when you leave the house.”
Since 2018, Ridd has had a performance residency at the Black Rabbit Rose, and has performed as part of Soho House West Hollywood’s “Magic Monday” series and at the Drunken Devil.
As Ridd is ramping up with performances in new venues, he looks forward to bringing his style of magic and mentalism to people — and to making genuine connections in a world that has spent much of the past few years in isolation.
What: Jackson Ridd Presents Westside Magic
When: November 11 and every 2nd Thursday
Where: Citizen Public Market, 9355 Culver Blvd., Culver City