Professional magician and former L.A.-based actor Joshua Lozoff returns to his hometown of Chapel Hill Sat. March 19 to perform at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. A graduate of Carolina Friends School, he enjoyed a bounty of local resources as he prepared his acting sensibilities. Before turning his attention to magic, he experienced success in the dramatic arts, appearing as on “Cheers” and in the movie “Clueless.” He received training around the world from renowned magicians to prepare himself for a full-time career of defying expectations and entertaining audiences everywhere.
North Carolina . . . is great because when I was growing up was when the film industry was really starting to happen in the state, particularly in Wilmington. The acting scene in Chapel Hill was great – even though I went to Friends School, I was doing a lot of theater at Chapel Hill High. They had a tremendous drama instructor there when I was a teenager. And I starred in a show that was out of WRAL in Raleigh…so it was a great place to grow up for my original career, which was acting, which I started doing when I was a little kid. And then I graduated high school, and found a way to continue pursuing that in L.A.
What were your experiences with live theater, growing up?
I was the one kid in some shows at UNC at Playmaker’s. In 1982 there was a production called “The Greeks”, and I played two parts, because I was only a little kid and everybody else was Playmaker’s Rep people. I had to lie on stage dead for multiple scenes in the shows. To this day I still have a strong sense memory of the smell of Hershey’s syrup, because that’s what they used for blood – Hershey’s syrup mixed with red food dye.
What’s your favorite part of being in front of a live audience?
Basically, it keeps things spontaneous – especially with the magic. Actually, one of the nice things about doing magic is returning to doing…when I was an actor, I did a lot of live theater here in Chapel Hill, and then when I moved to L.A. it was all television and film. And now that I’m a magician, it’s all live. Occasionally I’ll be on T.V., like I was yesterday in Raleigh, but of course…a magic show’s always live. It really keeps you in the moment. It doesn’t have to…in theory, I’ve seen performances where you can kind of tell they’re by rote. It’s the same person and it’s the same thing. For me, what’s the most important and the most fun about a live show is really being present in the moment and letting that be a unique experience and different from any other show I’ve done.
Magic is probably something that most of your audiences have never tried themselves. What do you think people take away from attending one of those shows?
My goal is to kind of remind us all how much opportunity there is for amazement and wonder in the world. So I do some great magic tricks, but I also do a lot of psychological experimentation stuff where I guess what people are thinking, or guide them to pick a particular thing. That can ride the line between feeling invasive and feeling fun! When presented in the context of, “Look at all these amazing things in the world – including our own personal potential to read people’s body language, and try to influence behavior, or make connections at a level other than what we’re aware of.” It kind of is in this overall umbrella of examining all the things that kind of create wonder in the world. Other moments are just fun magic tricks that make you feel that moment of wonder as well.
What’s one trick that never fails to please your audience?
There’s a piece that’s been in my show for a very long time, just because it’s so audience-pleasing. I’ll have somebody think of a card…and then I draw something on a sketchpad. The long and short of it is: The drawing on the sketchpad actually animates and comes to life, and moves on the pad. And then I tear out the paper and give it to the person, and really it’s just there, printed in ink. Everybody in the audience saw it move a few minutes ago.
Is there anything about your upcoming show you’d like to add?
I’m going to be trying three brand-new pieces that I’ll be debuting at the show. Once I committed to doing these dates at the ArtsCenter…I have such a strong connection to Carrboro and to the ArtsCenter that I wanted to make it special, and even though I perform all over the country and my show right now is really strong material and it’s stuff I’ve been doing for a while…I decided, “How can I make this show special?… Let me take this as an opportunity to create some new pieces.” Right now, I’m hard at work, and I can’t even promise they will work because they’re all experimental. I’m hard at work creating three new pieces that I’m going to put into the show, and people who come to the show will see for the first time.
*At the time of publication, tickets were selling fast for Josh’s shows in Carrboro. Please visit artscenterlive.org for more information.