David Caserta in a magic State
Master illusionist David Caserta brings his “Haunted Illusions” show to the State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton, at 7 p.m. Oct. 21, for a family-friendly Halloween show where he will perform mind-boggling levitations, mysterious disappearances and astonishing feats of magic.
Caserta, who attended Northampton Area High School, says majoring in theater at Muhlenberg College sparked his career, and not only because of its nationally-ranked theater program. The president of Muhlenberg at the time, Arthur R. Taylor, had once been president of CBS, and founded the Arts and Entertainment Network.
“He [Taylor] was really receptive to what I did and saw my shows,” says Caserta in a phone interview. “He wrote letters of recommendation to different agents and did whatever he could for me. It opened some doors.”
Caserta, who resides in the Bath area of Northampton County, just returned from performing in Bogota, Colombia. In July, Caserta was featured on the network television show, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” where he dazzled the fellow illusionists by sawing himself in half while standing vertically.
“I sent a video audition in of two illusions. They leaned towards the cutting one. They thought it would be a great illusion to do on TV.”
Prepping for performances can be challenging, and rehearsals hurried. The “Penn & Teller” producers required that Caserta use local actors to assist in the illusion. Caserta could not bring his own assistant. Instead, he met and trained an assistant just days before taping.
While in Colombia, the assistant provided for Caserta did not speak English, and his equipment did not arrive until the day of the taping.
“That’s some of the things people don’t see behind the scenes. There’s really a lot of work and a lot of technology going on there to make it happen,” he says.
Magic is one of the oldest art forms, and Caserta’s interest in it began at a young age, “I was 5 or 6 and asked for a magic kit for Christmas from my parents. I would practice, take a dinner tray table and put on a show for the family.
“Adults were supposed to understand how things work in life and yet [I was] able to fool them with a skill. That might have been the [fascination] back then,” says Caserta.
When he was 10-years-old, he looked in the phone book and called every magician in the area to find out how he could learn more.
“I found a magic shop in Allentown called Magic World. The owner gave private lessons, so I signed up and went for two years. I ended up developing it into a stage act.”
The faculty at Lehigh Elementary School in Northampton Area School District knew of the young student’s skill, and they needed entertainment for their annual Christmas production. So in 5th grade, Caserta performed in the auditorium before 600 people. “It certainly was a way to get my feet wet,” he recalls.
That led to performing at children’s parties and the realization that this could be a career. Caserta auditioned to perform at Musikfest in Bethlehem at the age of 13 and was hired. He was one of the youngest performers. At 16, Caserta taught magic classes at Lehigh Carbon Community College.
Caserta strives to create extraordinary illusions and dazzling effects that will delight and mystify his audience: “I try to put illusions in the show that no one else is performing. Some I’ve worked on three or four years in development.”
He pitches ideas with friends who are also interested in magic, and works with an illusion-building team in Las Vegas.
“There’s so much research and development needed because the equipment costs so much when you have it fabricated.”
Illusion designs can be trademarked without revealing the “how,” whereas patented illusions must describe the how the trick is executed and becomes public domain. “Magic’s pretty competitive,” says Caserta.
Utilizing his background in video production, lighting design and directing, Caserta records his illusions and reviews the footage in order to perfect them. This includes adding specific music genres for a powerful effect.
Caserta was inspired by Doug Henning and the dramatic works of David Copperfield. “I try to make the show more of a theatrical event versus the standard show.
“One thing special with the Halloween show is I have a lot of audience participation.”
Illusions include poking spikes through an audience member who’s laying on a table, and funny routines with children that are comedy-centered instead of scary.
Children are the most eager to come onstage, jumping up and down and raising their hands when he asks for volunteers. “I bring the most enthusiastic ones up.
“It’s very funny until they come up onstage with the lights in their eyes and they can’t see anything. The music becomes eerie and they don’t know what they got themselves into.”
Caserta gives volunteers the option to go back to their seats, and says the record is five children who changed their mind before an illusion. Comical situations occur and no one is immune from interactive fun with Caserta. Moms are asked to come onstage and dads might examine a piece of metal that Caserta will walk through.
Caserta is finalizing a new show, “Impossible,” which is to begin touring in 2018. Caserta promises fantastic new illusions with close-ups on a big screen, and even more interaction with the audience.
He admits sometimes wanting to share his secrets.
“At times, I would love to take the audience backstage after a show and show them how everything works, but my job is to keep it hidden.”
Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132