This isn't any ordinary magic. If Reza does pull a rabbit out of hat, it's sure to be something different. His idea isn't just to perform magic, he takes it on. The 33 year old isn't afraid to say that he wants to change, and no doubt he will, the world's perception of illusion. Reza is coming to the Adrienne Arsht Center on Saturday, Aug. 24, for one show.
miamiartzine.com spoke with the master illusionist and magician about some of his biggest on stage moments, and what audiences can expect. After our conversation, I've come to the conclusion: The illusions have to be seen to be believed.
miamiartzine: So, you're just known as Reza? One name like Madonna?
Reza: Half the time I don't even remember my last name. I have to think about it when I sign legal documents. I have a Persian first name and a German last name, so that's a lot, so I simplified it.
maz: What is your last name?
maz: You're right. Reza is more fitting for an illusionist. So, I know you get this question a lot, but when did you first realize you wanted to be a magician?
Reza: Ok. I'll take you back. So, it started at age 6. I got inspired by a magician that came to my elementary school. It was one of those chance moments, and it intrigued me. I begged my parents to buy me a magic kit and I got it for my 7th birthday.
maz: Where did you grown up?
Reza: Brookings, South Dakota.
maz: So after you got this magic kit, you decided this was what you wanted to do?
Reza: My parents were very supportive from the very beginning. They would help me set up, they'd drive me to gigs before I had a driver's license, so I think their support is what allowed me to keep going and to grow it. I really became interested in taking the magic to the next level and I think I saw the possibility in that others didn't see.
maz: Was there a time when you thought to yourself: "I've made it!"
Reza: When I was 14, I was doing local gigs and company events, and then I went from statewide to regional, to national to international and doing television. There are all these different stair steps that spawned from this dream as a kid.
maz: How did you develop your style? Because you are known for having your own style, and way of doing things.
Reza: I think everyone starts with what they know. Imitation, and then you have to find your own voice. So, I had this chance at a tourist area where I grew up and there were a lot of visitors. So, I did a fresh show every two days for a new crowd for the entire summer. Like, two shows a day. Doing that in an eight week run, I grew the most as a performer. I got to figure out who I was on stage: Are you funny? Are you serious? Then once I figured that out, what my character was and what the timing was, and what was my delivery, then I had to make the art form different. And for me, it was taking magic that was a cliché: Pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and the predictable, sawing a girl in half, for example. I thought if I could take these tricks and make them relatable. Because that's everything: You watch a movie, you listen to a song, and when it connects with you, that's is when you relate to it.
maz: And how did you make it "relatable?"
Reza: I took the magic that was built around props and I adjusted it so it was props that people related to. Like I appear with a motorcycle. Now, people know how much it weights, how massive it is, so you can't just now props that people can relate to. Rather than just showing up out of nowhere on a platform. I appear on a motorcycle. People know how much it weighs, how massive it is, and you can't just throw up on a platform. So that's the way to take it to the next level. Or rather than cutting someone with this magic prop, I decided to use a legitimate table saw. And I just kept going down these roads.
maz: Did you have inspirations? Other magicians like David Copperfield, or Harry Houdini?
Reza: There was a show called "World's Great Magic" on NBC. It was a dozen of the world's top magicians. Every year, I would watch that show as a kid. I was a huge fan. I had a bunch of VHS tapes from the show and I would watch them over and over, until I knew every word and every move. I wrote letters to a few of them, and they mentored me. Having them share their experiences and their advice with me was another one of those stepping stones to take it from a hobby into a profession.
maz: Where do you live? Have you become one of those magicians that's moved to Las Vegas?
Reza: Vegas is great and I enjoy performing there, but it's very isolating. If you work in Vegas, you work in Vegas, or you work cruise ships. But, my business model is different. I'm in a tour bus many dates out of the year, so logistically it made sense to be in the center of the United States – Missouri.
maz: How would you explain the show, production wise?
Reza: It's full scale, like a rock concert meets magic show. It has video walls and lighting, and dancers, and all different production techs. Everyone does their job doing the thing that they are passionate about. It's like all these puzzle pieces that come together to create a production.
maz: So have you been to Miami before?
Reza: This is my first time at this venue for sure. I've been to Miami I don't know that we've play there. I've played West Palm, but this is the first time at this venue.
maz: Did you ever have an illusion fail and not work? How do you recoup from that?
Reza: I used to play piano as a kid and people know how the song is supposed to end. They know the melody so if you miss a note, they know. But magic was always different and I loved that. You have no idea how the trick is supposed to end. And there are times I make it look like something's gone wrong but it's part of the trick, but if something does go wrong, and little things go wrong all the time, the audience has no idea, so I just take things in a different direction. I've had times where things have gone wrong or differently and I end up adding it in because it has become entertaining.
maz: What makes a Reza show different?
Reza: There are moments that people come to see. The big, elaborate tricks. But I think I surprise them with some of the moments they didn't think they were going to be as moved by. There are smaller elements in the show that are powerful. Like The Oreo Cookie. I eat the filling and then I make it reappear, but I do it in the audience with cameras projecting on the big screen. Some of those smaller moments, they get bigger reactions from the crowd than even the huge stuff.
When you aren't expecting to react, your reaction is different. It's even audible. I can hear the audience let out a gasp. I love those moments. These are the uncontrollable reactions rather than just a response.
Here's an example: Cutting someone in half is one of those things that people expect to see, a girl cut in half. I wanted to make it as different as possible, so I become cut in half, but it's not just that, at a point in the trick we remove everything. All the time you see this trick, it's behind boxes, behind things that are covering up what's happened, so I remove that. On one side of the stage you end up seeing one half of my body and on the other side, it's the other half.
And, the audience thinks, oh, he's divide, but there are things that we can't see so . . but then, uh, oh, we take it to the next level and remove everything and allow people to take a look.
There are moments that catch people off guard. It's like a one, two punch.
Reza: Edge of Illusion at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. Tickets, $26 to $69. For more information, 305-946-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org.