By Olivia Popp
Magician Arthur Trace — with the nickname The Artful Deceiver — boasts an impressive list of qualifications from years past — two-time Academy of Magical Arts (commonly known as the Magic Castle) nominee for Stage Magician of the Year, third-place winner for manipulation at the 2006 World Championships of Magic and countless other accolades. Now in 2018, Trace’s eponymously nicknamed solo show, The Artful Deceiver, lives up to the hype.
As a magician, Trace promotes an aptly-named artful brand — smartly dressed, smooth-talking and using a collection of diverse, clever props — he’s a true showman. His brand of humor doesn’t indulge in cheap jokes, either. Many gags come from tricks that tie each together, and many tricks have interesting backstories — a desire to gain the power of invisibility leads to a trick involving invisible East African bees, another involves wanting to trick his dog’s sense of hearing and yet another involves discussing how thieves practice pick pocketing. His rich descriptions give each trick depth, grounding them and even creating a form of storytelling, not just simply one elaborate act after another.
Trace’s acts are perfectly timed and pristinely rehearsed, but he proved he’s more than the scripted words in his quick wit, responding to shouts of “No way!” and “Come on, man!” with simple, clever retorts that made the audience burst into gleeful laughter. Even when the surprise ending of a trick titled iCard to Pocket (one that I found online and watched over and over with rapt attention) flubbed slightly (but trick still intact, no less!), Trace didn’t even stumble, and the trick most certainly didn’t lose its charm.
Trace’s tricks are woven into each other — bringing back a bitten apple from the beginning into a trick much later in the show, astounding the audience — and many are clever variations of existing forms of magic, such as tricks, cups and balls and more. His acts are highly inventive, utilizing traditional coins and cards but also using lights, records, balls, sand and various other props and tools.
Expertly timed, Trace utilizes sound and music in a impressively theatrical fashion, playing with direction and variety of sound for both humorous and dramatic effect. Audience members seen shouting exclamations after shocking tricks were brought onstage to participate in further tricks, furthering their excitement and awe. Trace’s usage of audience interaction is varying from trick to trick, never too much and sating even the most petulant and doubtful audience members.
Trace finished the show with a huge, nearly 10-minute-long grand finale entitled Postmodern Art, one that he performed as a representative for the Academy of Magical Arts at the 2006 World Championships of Magic in Stockholm, Sweden, winning third place. It’s truly a feat of magic as Trace turns pieces of a large painting into balls, spinning them at absurd speeds between his fingers, turning them back again, making piles of cards appear out of thin air, making them stick on the painting and more. Not a word is spoken and every motion is timed to a lively soundtrack — it’s utterly hypnotizing, and even the most careful set of eyes can’t tell where these cards are coming from.
If you want to get a taste of Arthur Trace, Google him and prepare to have your mind flipped. Better yet, see him live — The Artful Deceiver is a full experience in and of itself, and Trace is the masterful wizard of it all.
Arthur Trace: The Artful Deceiver will be at the Electric Lodge in Venice, California, on September 15 at 8 pm. Tickets are available at arthurtrace.com/the-artful-deceiver.
Contact Olivia Popp at oliviapopp ‘at’ stanford.edu.