By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Prompted by the 2008 American financial crisis to relocate from Los Angeles, California to Rio de Janeiro, and deciding once here to pursue professionally a life-long passion for magic, American Illusionist William Mandell has made a name for himself in the Cidade Maravilhosa. The Gringo Café in Ipanema took notice and will host weekly Close up Magic Shows starring Mandell beginning on Thursday, November 6th.
Mandell has peformed previously several times at venues throughout the city, including the Gringo Café during the venue’s recent Gringo Halloween movie screening event series.
“When people come to my shows, they can expect to witness and participate in the impossible,” Mandell told The Rio Times. “They will see things that will seem like television special effects, except it is happening right in front of their face.”
Known for his amazing illusions that include a R$100 bill appearing out of thin air, mind reading, playing cards whose edges seem to singe in spectactors’ hands despite the flame being nowhere near, and much more, Mandell began to practice magic professionally two years ago in the city after a life-long admiration of the pratice.
“I think that every artist is on a journey. Making a transition from casual hobbyist to professional performer was a big step for me as an artist and as a person,” said Mandell.
Mandell took one big step, five years ago when he officially moved from the United States to Rio de Janeiro. “I first visited Rio about twelve years ago doing a research project for my university. I made a lot of friends here during that time and I returned here when I could,” said Mandell.
“What brought me here permanently was the 2008 financial collapse. I lost my career and it was very difficult to find work at the time. I needed to reinvent myself. Some Brazilian friends of mine suggested that I try to do something in Rio, I liked the idea. And here I am.”
While Mandell says that he had practiced magic casually for over twenty years, once in Rio, he began to move toward magic as a profession. Two years ago he began to put on shows in various venues of the city. He has since performed at Barzin, Ecletico, Fasano, Cabaret Lounge, Paris6, and Star Pub, among other venues in the city.
“I think I have always had it in me to be a performer,” said Mandell. “Not only with magic, but as an actor and writer as well.”
In the past Mandell also wrote and directed murder mystery dinner theater that used special effects makeup for its characters and during murder scenes. Recently for his Gringo Halloween appearances, Mandell introduced special effects makeup to his magic shows further enhancing those performances.
“As a child, magic was a great outlet to explore what it is to be a performer. But I think it was David Copperfield who initially drew my attention. As I was growing up it was a yearly ritual to watch his television specials and it certainly fired my imagination as to what magic could be.”
Now Mandell is hard at work attempting to fire up the imaginations of those in Rio who come to see his shows. “It doesn’t seem like there is much of a magic scene in Rio, but I am working to create that scene. It is a challenge, but I see it also as a great opportunity,” said Mandell. “While in places like Las Vegas, it is commonplace to find great illusionists. Here in Rio, there is a certain satisfaction in performing for people who have never seen anything like this before.”
“In its essence,” Mandell concluded, “magic is about that moment of wonder that you share with your audience and Rio de Janeiro is a city of wonder.”
What: Close Up Magic Show with William Mandell
When: Thursday, November 6th, 8PM-11PM
Where: Gringo Café, Rua Barão da Torre 240 Loja A, Ipanema
Entrance: Free. Food and drinks prices vary.