ST: Many professional magicians, those of us who decide to devote our lives to this pursuit, get interested in magic at an early age. However, I didn’t until I was 19. Someone lent me a book and I started learning from it. After a few weeks of practicing on my own, I gathered the courage to share what I’d been working on with my family. Their response was very enthusiastic—much more than I expected. They freaked out, and I freaked out at their freaking out. Since that moment, I fell in love with magic.
Do you have a mentor? Who influenced you the most? Who taught you magic or are you self-taught?
ST: I’ve had a few mentors along the way. I crossed paths with the first one when I was still living in Ecuador, only a few months after I got interested in magic. I had the good fortune of meeting someone who taught me to care about magic, to nurture it and to see it as an art form. His name was Andres Castro, a great artist and a wonderful wizard who left us too soon.
There are and have been many who have influenced me as a magician. To this day the most present is the Spanish genius Juan Tamariz—el Maestro!!
Who do you think is the greatest magician of all time? Why this choice?
ST: Ayayay… Tough call. “Greatness” is highly subjective and hard to define. I don’t have an answer to that. I have heroes and personal favorites. I’ve had the thrill and pleasure to collaborate with many of the magicians I’ve respected and admired for a long time. Red Thread director Jon Armstrong and co-writer Jared Kopf are very influential figures within the magic community. Collaborating with them has been a privilege. If someone had told me about this only 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Your show sounds very intimate with only 34 guests in each audience. Explain why this is so important to the enjoyment of the show?
ST: An intimate audience opens the door to interaction and to getting to know each other. I might be doing most of the talking during the performance, but everyone there is an essential, active part of it.
Physical proximity to the stage and to the performer is important for the kind of performance I propose. It creates a specific atmosphere and group dynamic that can’t be attained in any other way.
How is Red Thread different from your past shows?
ST: For me, magic has always been an excuse for human interaction. It’s a vehicle that allows me to engage with people and implicitly ask them for a few minutes of their precious time and attention. My hope with Red Thread is to push this even further, with a performance that puts weight on the narrative, instead of focusing solely on the magic.
Talk about your co-writer Jared Kopf and your artistic director Jon Armstrong.
ST: Jared and Jon have different artistic visions, but both are immensely respected in the magic community. We all pull in different directions, which has led to a work that hopes to encompass and fulfill multiple dimensions. It has been challenging of course, but it’s been a very enjoyable challenge.
We know that the magician makes you focus on one thing while you do another. The magician moves our attention away. Without revealing anything, talk about this.
ST: The idea that a magician distracts people is a misconception. The psychology of magic goes deeper—is more subtle and elegant—than “quick hands” and “distracting people.” If you are being distracted and you realize that you have been distracted, then the experience won’t resonate. Instead, it will be dismissed as a clever juggling feat. In my mind, the magician should encourage people to watch closely and follow the action every step along the way. If people know they’ve been watching attentively and the result is still surprising and wonderful, then that feels like magic.
On a similar note, I greatly dislike the idea of “fooling” people. Magic deals with the psychology of deception, but deception is only a means to an end. Magic is a quite peculiar art form in the sense that it must bypass the intellect in order to reach the emotions. When I perform, my goal is to evoke wonder. No one wants to be fooled; we all want to experience wonder.
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