When artist/magician Edward Ruiz -- who goes by Confetti Eddie on stage -- announced a parlor-style performance at his studio space, I instinctively clicked "Join."
Nobody's ever offered me a night of magic before, and I was curious. Curious about all of it, really. Who else would pay to spend Friday night in a small room with an illusionist? How many of us had an inner 10-year-old who believed this is what adulthood was meant to be? And while I've seen Ruiz perform successfully to large rooms at Artopia and with Ruby Revue, how would that translate to a space the size of an efficiency? So, I went.
You know Ruiz's studio even though you've never been inside. It's the Expo Park storefront guarded by a T. rex (the dino is Ruiz' handiwork) just a few doors down from Ochre House and Amsterdam Bar. I was unprepared for the crowd. So was Ruiz.
About 60 of us showed up to this minimally promoted, first-time event. There were children, old people, parents, young straight couples, biracial gay couples, blacks, Latinos, whites and Asians queued up along the sidewalk. It was a remarkably diverse sampling platter of Dallas life, all united by the promise of magic.
It's interesting. As much as we discuss how to improve multiculturalism in the arts, it took a magic show for me to find a natural flow of the stuff. Whether that's thanks to Ruiz's own interpersonal relationships or some universal appeal the night radiated, is still unclear. But few in the crowd seemed to know each other.
Once we got inside he encouraged us to explore. The retail counter on our immediate left served as storage but gave the room a magic store vibe. Behind it, dozens of framed canvases crowded for space. A large stuffed rabbit in overalls was passed out, facing the ceiling on a wooden stool, as though waiting to be activated by a ventriloquist. The glass case itself was filled with Ruiz's creations: beautifully carved, wooden pin hole cameras; hand-painted resin statues; and assorted magic-themed relics.
The walls were decorated with Ruiz's paintings, mostly of magician-centric scenes, populated by his conjuror alter ego, Confetti Eddie. But there was also a portrait of Alfred E. Newman, an oversized full-length painting of a 1960s paper doll and an installation of old televisions, set to flicker ancient playbill images from century-old magic shows.
Yes, this place is crazy cool.
A black footlocker served as a makeshift wet bar. DJ Rid shuffled through a playlist of old-timey tunes on a laptop. Ruiz walked quickly through the space attempting to make additional seating materialize out of thin air.
As the show began, many of us were left standing, and we didn't mind. Nobody here came for comfy chairs or unlimited wine, we just wanted to see what Ruiz and his sidekick (and girlfriend) the lovely Karleena, had up their sleeves.
Ruiz builds his own props and sets. An artist and tinkerer from an early age, he has a limitless capacity for innovation. He's done lighting for Erika Badu, had extensive success in video, sculpture and two-dimensional art, and now he's included himself in the execution of those merged media through a performative routine of classic sleight-of-hand. And while that may seem an unconventional path, it's extremely artful and unified, making the show a stylish extension of his talents.
Three illusions were performed on Friday. The first was a sideshow staple in which a menacing box was placed over Karleena's head. He impaled it with large needles and we felt unimpressed, believing that was the trick's big reveal. But when he opened the box, Karleena's head was nowhere to be found. We cheered like we were at a Mavs game.
Next Ruiz did a trick which a large segment of his arm went missing for a baffling length of time. And finally he stuffed poor Karleena into a small basket, stabbed her with swords, shrunk the basket down to the size of a breadbox, climbed inside it, then pulled her out mostly undressed. Sixty jaws dropped.
The evening had a disorganized feel to it with a lot of odd starts and stops, and the crowd didn't mind. The same reasons why I like seeing a band when they're still a little sloppy, fueled by passion, applied here. It felt authentic and inviting. We were welcomed into someone's personal parlor and given a look into a world we didn't understand. And aside from the 60 or so of us who crammed into this unadvertised affair, nobody else in Dallas saw what we saw. It was intriguing, beguiling and beautiful.
It was magic, in every sense.
The next evening of magic is scheduled for February 28. Get tickets here.
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