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Steve Cohen introduces Chamber Magic at National Arts Club in NYC.

The genteel National Arts Club provides an opulent yet intimate setting for the presentation of a style of conjuring skewed to just such well-appointed salons and those who might be their habitués. Steve Cohen’s production of “Chamber Magic: A Demonstration of Modern Conjuring” harks back to an earlier era when wealthy or titled patrons hosted or attended elegant entertainments in drawing rooms and conservatories. “Malini, Bertram and Hofzinser are my models,” confided Cohen to MagicTimes. “Their performances were intended for an elite and moneyed clientele.”

The well traveled, university educated Mr. Cohen, who rather than appearing in a tuxedo, jump suit, or tee shirt as many of his contemporary wonder workers do, effects the tailored wardrobe of the corporate and high society prospects he seeks to woo. “I am not trying to appeal to everyone. My prospective audience is a sophisticated, upscale one.” Unlike David Blaine, for whom Steve has acted as a consultant, the street is not his preferred platform. Yet both owe much to the close-up magic performed by itinerant mountebanks in an age before vaudeville stages, radio and movie wonders and the far flung effect of television altered the perceptions and opportunities for the public to experience the joy and wonder of intimate displays of thaumaturgy.

Steve Cohen came under the spell of polite sorcery at the age of six when his great Uncle Nat indoctrinated him in the artifice of the Stebbins Stack. Once bitten, Steve was hooked. He attended Tannen’s Magic Camp for several seasons. In 1987 at the age of seventeen he won first prize in the junior close up competition at the IBM convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Here he caught the attention of influential performer and magical scholar Shigeo Takagi of Japan. Takagi arranged for Steve to spend the summer between high school graduation and college admission in Tokyo.  Thus was introduced a parallel and complimentary thread to the developing fabric of Steve Cohen’s life. “That summer in Japan I had such a great time and met so many wonderful people that I wanted to keep in touch with them. I wanted to keep up my relationships. I’ve always loved puzzles. I approached learning Japanese as a fascinating puzzle.” Enrolling as a psychology major at Cornell University on his return from Japan, Steve signed up for courses in Japanese as well. Becoming conversationally fluent, he spent his third year abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo. During this sojourn he worked part time at Ton Onosaka’s Magic Land magic shop. “That’s where I really learned magic and Japanese!” Steve became the interpreter. Not only did he decipher and re-cipher instructions from Japanese to English and English to Japanese (eventually doing virtually all the instructions for Tenyo’s releases) but he came to know many visiting magic personalities such as Larry Jennings, Eugene Burger and Tommy Wonder in his role as linguistic intermediary. “Fluency in another language opens up magic in a powerful way. It gives a new dimension to conjuring as you perceive it through the nuances of another tongue and culture.”

Steve Cohen in action at the National Arts Club. (Photo: Robert Cumins)

Back at Cornell for his final year, Steve continued to polish his linguistic and conjuring skills. He was active in the Japanese Debate Club. Professor Carl Sagan, associated with the university, engaged Steve to perform a show for a group of, “great minds.” Steve’s ability to baffle yet entertain this consortium of powerful intellects garnered him a standing ovation.

Having completed his formal education, Steve returned to Japan for the next four years. He applied his fluency in Japanese to the business of interpretation and translation for publishing, patent research and legal clients. Concurrently, he continued to conjure. The Park Hyatt Tokyo, one of the premier hotels in all of Asia, engaged him on a contract basis to present strolling magic at their Sunday Brunch and as magician on call for special corporate events and celebrity parties. In 1995 he determined to return to the U.S. and arrived back in New York with just his “wits and his savings,” intent on forging a stateside career in high class close up magic. Initially, he continued to provide his translation services to augment his income but as he has better established his reputation as an entertainer his activity as an interpreter has waned.

Steve Cohen’s success has been notable. Trade shows for clients such as General Motors; Pfizer; Salomon Smith Barney; Compaq; and Unisys led to further engagements presenting magic theme Team Building seminars for a variety of corporations. Performances for Michael Bloomberg and Christopher Reeve as well as exclusive parties for many stellar names on the social register have followed. The inauguration of Chamber Magic is a result of Steve Cohen’s desire to target members of high society as qualified clients to privately engage his services.

Steve Cohen and Mark Levy at the National Arts Club.

“I am presenting serious magic for sophisticated, well educated, well heeled audiences. My goal with “Chamber Magic” is to offer a stylish soiree that will become a hot ticket amongst the upper crust cognoscenti. The National Arts Club, of which I am a member, offers a lovely location of well appointed ornate parlors filled with fine art that afford a complementary setting for my performance.” Good friend Mark Levy, noted for his volume, “Magic for Dummies,” is creative consultant to the show. Steve credits Mark with being instrumental in the realization of the production, and cites Marks’ ingenuity as a vital asset in the staging of Chamber Magic.

Chamber Magic: A Demonstration of Modern Conjuring will continue on Friday evenings (shows at 7:00 and 9:00pm) through the end of June when the National Arts Club closes for the summer season. At this time plans are being implemented to resume Chamber Magic in the autumn when the club reopens for the fall season.

Information regarding reservations and ticket availability may be had by contacting Steve Cohen at: 917-361-8751 or by visiting Steve Cohen’s website at: www.customagic.com.

—Richard Steven Cohn

Richard Steven Cohn has written for Genii, Magicol, M.U.M., The Yankee Collector, MAGIC, as well as magic themed articles for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine and Stagebill. He is a magical consultant for television and theater and performs both as a single and with his wife Alexandra.

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