Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
Jun 30, 2012
01:00 PMTalk about Arts
Letter from Toronto 5: Lights Out
(Note: This is the last in a series of reports from the 2012 Luminato Festival and other events in Toronto by Spree writer Ron Ehmke. Luminato and the North by Northeast Festival will both return in June 2013.)
I’d like to be able to give you a full description of Juan Esteban Varela’s act, but I didn’t see it. Oh, I was there, all right, and wide awake for the duration, but I didn’t see a thing.
That’s because I, like the other roughly 150 people (so I’m told) in the house, was blindfolded in the lobby and remained that way until the show ended an hour later. Varela is a magician who, for reasons never made entirely clear, wants his audience to experience his performance the way visually impaired people would. Thus the blindfolds and total darkness, punctuated only by occasional flashlights wielded by sighted assistants.
Varela can’t see during his act, either, or so we’re told. I have every reason to believe it, because at the end of the night I noticed he had Blindfold Hair like everyone else.
Here’s what I can tell you about From the Dark: The magic tricks were mainly variations on familiar ones involving cards (given a rough side and a smooth one, with cut-out shapes replacing the suits), rings (moving from one finger to another according to a set of chess-like rules), and medallions (the old which-hand-holds-the-coin game). All of this was bookended by some high-minded talk about how the darkness gives us freedom to dream, or something like that, but at heart, what we came for was table magic, and that’s what we got.
The other thing we got was an opportunity to experience the world without our usual signposts—to feel vulnerable and exposed, even more so than audience-participation shows inherently provoke, and to trust that no matter how embarrassing it might get (spoiler: it didn’t), we were all in this together. And that was a certain kind of magic all its own.