Blaise Serra Will Set the Montalban Ablaze Valentine's Weekend

As part of Valentine's weekend at the Montalban, magician Blaise Serra will perform on Friday February 14 and Saturday February 15. This young man really knows who he is and what he can do, as you will learn when you read our detailed interview below.

Blaise, I love magic as it can be very theatrical and transport one to new levels of joy. What do you feel sets you apart from other magicians?

BS: I feel that what sets me apart as a magician is my background as an entertainer and artist prior to becoming a magician. I became infatuated with performing first as a musician rather than as a magician, and I think my approach to creating magic is heavily influenced by music and theatre. It started when I was quite young and began playing guitar. I continued for years and had my first experiences on stage in talent shows and in a band. It’s because of that upbringing that I approach art and creativity based more on the thought process of the musician. In music, there are no secrets- rather there is an emphasis on originality and writing something new that can touch the hearts of listeners. Although I appreciate the classics of magic and the effects that have amazed audiences for centuries, I don’t have them in my show as I am much more interested in sharing my own voice and perspective. I try to constantly create and improve upon what I’ve done before so that anyone who goes to my show, whether a magician or not, will witness magic routines that they have never seen before. Through that approach to this art form I hope my audiences can experience a magic show that is unlike any other.

What is your specialty act? Is it card tricks? Mental telepathy via the audience? Can you be specific?

BS: I believe friends of mine in the magic community would consider my specialty to be card magic, as I have developed new sleight of hand techniques that were published as instructional tutorials to sell to other magicians. And although I love sleight of hand, my show is not centered on being a sleight of hand artist. Rather, the reason my show is called Through A Magician’s Eyes (TAME for short) is because I think my real specialty is giving members of the audience the feeling of really being involved in the magic taking place. Rather than making the show just about me, I enjoy creating a story that every member of the audience feels heavily involved in. By focusing on a connection between all of us, I like to bring everyone on a journey where they read each other’s minds or visualize things that become a reality in their own hands. Every member of the audience becomes an integral member of the ensemble of the show, where they truly feel that they can do magic too, even if they can’t explain how.

Who or what inspired you to do magic as a profession? Have you been involved since childhood? Is there a specific event that happened in your life that catapulted you to success in the realm of magic?

BS: I can remember the moment that I knew I needed to pursue magic as a hobby, as well as the moment I realized it could be my career path. When I was in school, I was heavily focused on academics. I thought I was going to go to a university and study computer science or biomedical engineering. I think now looking back, I just enjoyed problem solving and found that aspect of those careers interesting. Leading up to high school I was passionate about music and theater whenever I was outside of class, but I remember the day my interest in magic was sparked. We were on a field trip during my freshman year and someone on the bus had brought a deck of cards to play games on the way. I had learned a couple card tricks when I was really young but had forgotten about them, yet when I saw the deck I asked if I could play with it and suddenly bits and pieces of those simple tricks I’d learned came flooding back to me. I didn’t recall them from beginning to end, but I began making up tricks on the spot and performing for some of my friends on the bus. The fact that they were reacting so strongly to something I just made up was a feeling I began to chase from that moment on and I was hooked.

I looked up clips of the show Penn and Teller: Fool Us on youtube and loved the idea of freaking out my friends at school with tricks I had come up with. I already was in love with performing, but found so much satisfaction in the creative problem solving that goes into magic that starts with trying to think of an impossible problem no one has thought of before that you set out to solve it by any means. Once when I was at the beach I brought a deck and started performing for people all around just for fun to see if people I didn’t know would be just as entertained as my friends. And one of those people asked me for a business card, which I didn’t have, so I wrote down my phone number on a playing card and a few months later was asked to perform for a holiday party with hundreds of guests. I had business cards made and I began getting calls to perform at various other events in Connecticut and other parts of New England. Suddenly I found myself pretty busy getting paid for the thing I loved to do for free, and I realized at some point I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

Do you perform mostly in the US or abroad? Is the Magic Castle a favorite venue to perform? If so, why?

BS: So far I’ve performed all over the US but I’d love to venture out and hope to get booked abroad soon. I learn so much about people every time I step in front of an audience, and would love to be able to better understand other cultures and create routines that are relatable to and touch the heart strings of people all over the world. I have an act in my show based around that concept and how magic is a universal language much like music that is able to connect us with people from any background. So I’d love any opportunity to test my ability to entertain audiences from different cultures and continue to grow as a performer.

As for the Magic Castle, I feel incredibly privileged every time I get the chance to perform there, since that is kind of a Mecca for magicians and a legendary place I hoped I’d get the chance to visit, let alone perform at, back when I was living in Connecticut. Audiences there are so much fun because they’ve all come to see magic (unlike many of the restaurant gigs I did when I first started out) and are really excited to be a part of the show. But my shows at the Montalbán are certainly the ones I am most excited about, as I get to be involved in every aspect of the production including the layout of the space, lighting, sound, etc. to fully customize the experience for my show.

Why is Valentine's weekend at the Montalbán so special? What do you feel you will bring through magic to the weekend of love?

BS: My show is all about forming a connection between myself and my audience, and showing them what life is like Through A Magician’s Eyes. The goal is that when audience members leave the Montalbán that evening, they’ll notice the magic in things that usually go under the radar or are taken for granted. Love is the ultimate connection, and without being an illusion or trick, it is one of the most magical things that we are lucky enough to experience in life. I don’t feel that by just doing some sleight of hand I’d be adding to that magic. Rather I’d like to put a spotlight on the connections we already have to one another, amplify them, and bring to life something beautifully tangible to behold from a concept as intangible as love.

Who is your favorite magician of all time? Why this choice?

BS: Recently through getting the chance to consult and work with him frequently, my favorite magician is Shin Lim. I first began working with him while he was on season 13 of America’s Got Talent which he won, and I don’t think I’ve ever met someone more deserving of winning that competition. He is the most creative magician I know, and he is constantly innovating in the field of magic and pushing himself to improve upon what he has done before. Aside from that, he is a great human being and hasn’t become any less of a genuinely good person with the sudden influx of fame. While I was starting out in magic I wasn’t influenced much by magicians but rather by musicians and other entertainers with skill sets that allowed them to create art that could not be replicated such as Joe Satriani or Gene Kelly. However, a magician that I’ve always found incredible is Asi Wind. It’s funny that he also is both a performer and consultant (for David Blaine), and he is notorious for going to any means necessary to make an effect he has visualized possible, no matter how difficult it might be. Which is certainly a trait I admire.

Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?

BS: I hope that the readers enjoyed this little peek into my thought process behind my show, and I cannot wait to share with them the magic I’ve created for this Valentine’s Day weekend. Also, when I found out that there is an art gallery in the Mezzanine of the Montalbán I reached out to my friend Marwan Shahin from Egypt who is the most incredible artist I’ve met to organize an exhibition. So on Valentine’s Day the same night as my show TAME, his gallery APEX Mirage will be opening upstairs. I urge people to either come early before my show or stay late after it ends to check out his artwork - you will not be disappointed.

More information and tickets to my show are available at TheMontalban.com/TAME, and if anyone has any questions for me they can find me at @blaiseserra on all platforms. I’m so excited to perform for everyone, and I hope they can make it out to see Through A Magician’s Eyes.

(photo credit: Lionel Garcia)

Visit Blaise at BlaiseSerra.com

To reserve tickets, go to TheMontalban.com/tame


JOAN OF ART: A Very Merry Magic Mania, Cars and More Cars, Evolution of L.A. Street Art and a Musical Icon

I know a lot of you are busy Xmas shopping and taking advantage of all the sales going on, but if you decide to take a break from all that and want to have some fun, here's a few events that you should check out.

One of my favorites is A VERY MERRY MAGIC MANIA hosted by Magician Extraordinaire Albie Selznick. I've seen many of Albie's shows and have always been blown away by his talent.

After a summer of bringing magic to the masses at the Santa Monica Playhouse, Albie is back with a new show called A VERY MERRY MAGIC MANIA. It will still be at the Santa Monica Playhouse, but instead of Mondays, it will be Saturday and Sunday evenings, from November 23rd through December 29th.

This Saturday at 8pm magicians Trigg Watson, Chris Randall, Dave Cox and Chris Moorman will be performing while on Sunday at 3pm Michael O' Brien will be added to the show.

A VERY MERRY MAGIC MANIA offers the opportunity to see multiple world class magicians in an intimate venue. Albie's guest magicians have appeared on America's Got Talent, Penn & Teller: Food Us, Masters of Illusion, Wizard Wars, to name just a few.

For tickets or more information go to MagicManiaLA.com or call 310-586-1166.

Now besides magic I love cars. Well in truth I love vintage cars, but I still can't resist going to the LA AUTO SHOW every year and this year is no different. Starting Friday, November 22nd through Sunday December 1st one of the world's largest auto shows with 1,000 vehicles will return to LA and I can't wait to see what the future holds when it comes to driving.

This show is a one stop shop for comparison shopping for cars, trucks, SUV'S, electric vehicles and more without any sales pressure.

Whether you're shopping for a new vehicle, or just want to do some free test drives while experiencing the latest tech or exploring an assortment of customized rides and exotics, you will find it here at the LA AUTO SHOW at the LA CONVENTION CENTER, 1201 South Figueroa Street in Downtown LA next to the Staples Center.

Besides the cars, there will be numerous celebrity appearances from the entertainment, sports and automotive worlds and they're available for meet and greets, autograph signings and selfie sessions. For more information go to LAAutoShow.com or call (310) 444-1850.

Another thing I can't get enough of is STREET ART. I've walked the streets of downtown L.A. where I saw some of the best Graffiti art. Well now you don't have to travel that far to see some great Street Art. Just go over to the Annenberg Space For Photography on Friday, November 22nd at 7pm where you'll find THE EVOLUTION OF STREET ART IN LA, an evening with Judy Baca, Brooklyn-based street artist Swoon, and graffiti artist Saber.

Since the 1970's street artists - from muralists to graffiti artists have tried to 'maintain real estate.' Whether protecting giant murals from small but marring graffiti tags, to ensuring giant 'bombs' are not whitewashed by city or state authorities, L.A.'S STREET ART SCENE has battled to preserve its representation of the city's civic life.

Building on these themes for this lecture and discussion, muralist and Social and Public Art Resource Center co-founder Judy Baca will present on the transformation of L.A.'S storied mural and graffiti art scenes.

Known best for her work, The Great Wall of Los angeles (1976-83, Baca will also lead a conversation with the Brooklyn based street artist Caledonia Curry (aka Swoon) and graffiti artist Saber to explore the roles graffiti and mural art plays in representing marginalized communities in a quickly gentrifying city.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is located at 2000 Avenue of the Stars, in LA 90067. For more information go to AnnenbergSpaceForPhotography.org.

Last but never least there is a Musical icon performing at the Wiltern Theatre. The icon is known simply as MADONNA.

We all know she gives larger-than-life performances so it'll be interesting to see her 'scaling-down.' Ahead of the release of her new album, MADAME X, Madonna is embarking on a small-ish theatre tour including 11 nights at the Wiltern Theatre located at 3780 Wilshire Blvd, in Koreatown, 90010.

The doors open at 7:30pm but Miss M. won't be going on until 10:30pm. The tour actually started on Tuesday, November 19th and continues through Monday November 28th. For more dates, times, tickets, etc go to Wiltern.com.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, I hope you all have a blast.


JOAN OF ART: A Weekend of Wonders, Art, Fashion, Food and Magic

Cirque du Soleil-Corteo is back and appearing live in Inglewood at The Forum. This is a celebration of the life of a clown. The clown Mauro has passed, but his spirit is still with us.

Instead of mourning, the funeral cortege celebrates the here and hereafter with laughter and exuberance. Rich extravagant memories frolic with the senses.

The sound of laughter peals around the stage, visions of joyous tumblers and players fascinate the eyes. Regret and melancholy retreat in the face of a cavalcade of lively recollections of a life gloriously lived. A festive parade that entertains, the perfect event for the whole family.

What a perfect way to spend the weekend. For tickets go to CirqueDuSoleil.com. But hurry up because the show is only here from March 27th to March 31st.

The next event is definitely not for kids, but one I highly recommend. I saw it last year and it was absolutely awesome. It's the Nude Art and Fashion Show in downtown Los Angeles.

More than just an art show, Nude Art and Fashion Show LA is an experience. You will find some of the best original artists, designers and performers at our shows, all presenting work focused on the nude in art and fashion.

From traditional fine art (including paintings, sculpture, photography, digital media and more) to an incredible and unique 'Naked Fashion Show' full of wearable art and stunning looks you'll love, to jaw dropping live performances and interactive exhibits that include burlesque dancers, live nude sketching session, aerial pole dancing, live music and other dazzling performances this show has something for everyone.

I for one can't wait to be there on opening night which is this Friday March 29th. The show runs from 8-11pm. If you can't make it Friday you can get tickets for Saturday, March 30th from 7:30-11pm.

The event takes place at the Cooper Design Space, 860 South Los Angeles Street. For tickets go to NudeArtLA.com

I'm sure the above events have given you and me quite an appetite, so I'll be going to the 7th Annual ¡Latin Food Fest! which comes to L.A. State Historic Park March 29th - 30th for two days celebrating Hispanic culinary excellence.

On March 29th there will be a kick off party "Chefs Night Out' which is a wine, spirits and beer party that takes place from 5:30-7:30pm. Cost of admission is $29 and includes complimentary drinks, music by Dj Ty, photos with your favorite chef, access to a silent auction and a ticket raffle to the Gran Tasting Los Angeles which takes place on March 30th from 1-4pm.

General admission tickets range from $25-$35. Early admission at noon is also available for $49 and VIP tickets cost $149 with perks including early admission, access to special tasting and a gift bag. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

L.A. State Historic Park is located at 1245 North Spring Street, Los Angeles. For more information go to LatinFoodFest.com/events-los-angeles

And now for a different kind of art - The Art of Magic...Albie Selznick, magician extraordinaire returns with his awesome magic show entitled MAGIC MONDAY. I know Mondays aren't officially part of the weekend, but his shows are so fantastic I thought I'd make an exception.

Reappearing at the Santa Monica Playhouse starting Monday, April 1st MAGIC MONDAY reopens and I for one cannot wait. I've seen Albie's shows many times including his last one at the Magic Castle and he is the 'real thing' and so are his fellow magicians.

Albie is an actor-magician and he makes it a point to feature the very best magicians and variety acts from The Magic Castle, America's Got Talent, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, Masters of Illusion and Wizard Wars. Every Monday there are new and different acts and all ages 8 years and up are welcome.

Albie is a lifetime member of the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and created the theatrical smash hit, SMOKE AND MIRRORS which the LA Times called 'A superb theatrical magical show!'. As an actor Albie performs regularly on TV, stage and film, most recently recurring on Amazon's The Last Tycoon, Good Girls and Ryan Murphy's upcoming Netflix show The Politician with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Platt.

The show runs about 75 minutes and features an ever changing lineup of over 70 world famous magic and variety acts.

To purchase tickets and for more information go to... MagicMondaLA.com or call 310-586-1166. The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica CA.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend including Monday, make it a fun one.


Voices from the 2018 Hollywood Fringe: Daniel Donohue, Co-Star of ‘Coke and Mirrors' Comedy Magic Show

Daniel Donohue and Eric Siegel, the stars of last year's hilarious The New Bad Boys of Magic, are staggering back to the Hollywood Fringe to continue the story of their misbegotten magicians and to demonstrate some more inebriated prestidigitation.

In anticipation of Coke and Mirrors' June 3rd premiere, Donohue took some time to answer questions for me about the new show.

What is the inspiration behind this newest assault on the Fringe?

Frankly, the Hollywood Fringe Festival is one of the few venues in town that hasn't permanently banned us. If our “Amazing Disappearing Fifth of Rum” trick from last year didn't get us kicked out, surely our “Cups & Tide Pods” routine will.

I take it this is a continuation of the same characters. What more will fans discover about them?

Coke & Mirrors tells the whole history of the New Bad Boys of Magic, from our sad childhoods to our glory days as Las Vegas headliners, right up to the present day as Los Angeles children's entertainers. It will be painful, but at least we can all drink.

How did you manage to lure producer Greg Karber and director Nick Paul into your trap?

Nick Paul is one of the finest magicians in the world and a headliner at the world-famous Magic Castle. We cornered him in the Castle parking lot, and he agreed to direct us as soon as we put the air back in his tires.

Our producer Greg Karber hired us for our first gig two years ago, and he has since gone on to become a successful theatrical producer and film director. Coincidence? We think not.

What compelled you to return to the Fringe this year?

Definitely money. The massive profit margins we make producing our show at Hollywood Fringe are reason enough to return. Also, we love meeting crazy people. Er, sorry — actors.

Can you hint at any mystifying illusions you'll be throwing at the audience?

Our closer is a trick entitled “Nocturnal Prediction.” It's filthy.

What have you guys been up to since Bad Boys?

Every month, we host a magical variety show called Dirty Tricks at Three Clubs in Hollywood. You should check it out. The other magicians are way better than us, we promise.

Since the Fringe is such a collaborative experience, are there any other shows you'd like to give a shout out to?

Several of our friends have devised an ensemble piece called The Elevator. In the true spirit of Hollywood Fringe, we will definitely trade comps with them and then not go.

Coke and Mirrors plays three dates — June 3, 10 and 17 at Three Clubs, 1123 North Vine Street. Tickets and showtimes can found on the Fringe website. Grab your tickets now!