Just days before the pandemic lockdown hit, Halifax magician Vincenzo Ravina found himself in Las Vegas.
While gambling and a few Vegas shows would be on the itinerary, the real reason for his visit was to fool one of magic’s most celebrated duo on the CW Network show Penn & Teller: Fool Us.
On the show, aspiring magicians are invited to perform their best trick to try and fool the world-famous team of Penn & Teller. Anyone who succeeds wins the right to perform with the duo in their celebrated show at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
“Whenever they are about to do a new season, they put out a call in the magic community asking us to send them our most original magic and interesting magic,” says Ravina by phone. “I didn’t think I had a hope of getting on, but they got back to me about a month later, and I ended up on the show.”
But while it might sound easy, Ravina says that he still had to jump through a few television hoops with the show’s producers and went as far as redesigning the trick he had initially submitted.
“The trick I did is called ‘Mind Reading Glasses,’ which involves glasses that look like those old-fashioned 3D glasses, the red and blue ones, and a sci-fi helmet called a thought transmitter,” he explains.
Originally designed as a card trick, the producers asked him if he could use the trick’s premise but without using cards.
“They said that they get a lot of card tricks and so I sent them two options,” he says. “They liked them, so they asked me to do both.”
Customarily used to performing in front of crowds of less than one hundred during shows at the Bus Stop Theatre, Ravina says the experience was simultaneously exciting and filled with anxiety.
“This was 500 people in Las Vegas, on Penn and Teller’s stage, in front of Penn and Teller and Alyson Hannigan, who I am also a huge fan of from Buffy. It was definitely wild,” he says.
Ravina’s performance on stage wasn’t the only television magic taking place during his five days in Sin City.
“There was also rehearsing in front of this panel of producers in a boardroom and an onstage rehearsal,” he says. “And one day, we shot the biography package where I did a dramatization of me doing open mic in Halifax.”
It wasn’t all work though, as Ravina also found time in-between his obligations to the show to take in some of the other magic acts on the Vegas strip.
“They put you up at the Rio Hotel, which was very nice and my wife and a couple of friends came with me, and we were able to go see a bunch of magic shows like David Copperfield, Piff the Magic Dragon.”
Finding his love for magic as a child, Ravina says his interest came from how many young magicians first get hooked.
“I got into magic as a kid with magic kits and going to the library and reading magic books,” he says. “When I was in junior high, I was doing birthday parties and that sort of thing.”
Stepping away from magic, Ravina only recently got back into more seriously the past couple of years. It would be his career as a writer that would eventually bring him back.
“Once I realized I could use magic as a vehicle for my writing and come up with interesting premises to give people strange experiences, I started becoming interested in magic again and trying to put my spin on things.”
It has paid off for Ravina, as only a few make it onto the Penn and Teller stage each season.
But as to whether he ends up fooling the two Vegas magicians and wins a return trip to perform is classified. Sworn to secrecy, Ravina says the only way to find out is to tune in to see the show when it airs on August 3 (check your local listings).
“Which is coincidentally my first wedding anniversary,” he says. “We’re going to have a very small COVID watch party. I think we’re going to save the anniversary celebrations for the next day.”
Halifax audiences will be able to see more of Ravina’s magic as he just signed on to perform in Savour the Sea From a Distance at this year’s virtual Halifax Fringe Festival in September.