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Liberty Magic’s ‘Spotlight on the Burgh’  Personifies What Makes Pittsburgh Magical

By JESSICA NEU

Liberty Magic is celebrating its fifth season as Pittsburgh’s self-proclaimed “hidden gem” of the Cultural District. Since the conclusion of its first season, Liberty Magic has featured a Spotlight on the Burgh performance that highlights local magicians, as its annual seasons often feature national and international talents.

Beginning a three-week run spanning the end of May, magicians Michael MiskoEric Meredith, and Dan Harmon opened week one, bringing their humor, quick wit, and years of experience to Spotlight on the Burgh. Misko opens the show with a hilarious, energetic, and fast-paced routine. Misko plays more to the comedic aspects of his show than traditional magic tricks in this opening. The audience roared with laughter as Misko heavily engaged them in his kitschy set, almost a satire of the odds, risks, chances, and moments of deceit involved in magic. Amid the humor, there are still several head-scratching, “How did he do that?” moments before yielding the floor to Eric Meredith. 

Meredith has been practicing magic for over 50 years and has become an expert in sleight of hand. Meredith’s delivery is more subdued than the energetic, with a calm, established demeanor that allows audiences to focus on his tricks, fluid movements, and delightful storytelling. Meredith touches on the psychology of magic, which is always a favorite topic of mine. It is truly fascinating to be told how you think and how your brain perceives information during a magic trick, but we still allow ourselves to be tricked each time. Meredith revels in this willingness to suspend disbelief to make rubber and billiard balls appear, disappear, reappear, and multiply before our eyes. 

Third on the bill is Dan Harmon. Opening night marked a beautifully poignant moment for Harmon as he made his mainstage debut. Harmon can usually be seen in the Liberty Magic lobby performing tricks to guests who arrive before the show. Harmon’s gratitude was palpable, and while he may have been nervous, his hands were steady; his shuffling technique was precise and made each trick he executed seem easy. He intertwined his sleight of hand, rope magic, and card tricks with a beautiful story about his tumultuous childhood. Harmon explained that he was homeschooled and then completed high school via cyber school so as not to be bullied for being different. He had long hair, did not wear trendy clothes, and had different interests from his peers. Harmon’s message is inspiring, proudly explaining how he combined his many talents into a joyous magic show that celebrates illusion and inclusion. He combines his talent as a beatboxer with a card trick that garnered a standing ovation and proved that he has earned his spot on the main stage. 

Meredith returned with additional card tricks showcasing his agility and pleasant cadence as he recited a poem while completing a card trick, leaving the audience feeling entertained while hearing a bedtime story. Meredith’s ease of execution is calming but also fascinating. You will want to listen to Meredith just as much as you want to watch him make cards seemingly transform from one suit and number to another. 

Misko then returns to the stage and cleverly builds upon the momentum of his first set, but this time, he adds a few intense card tricks while not forgoing his trademark humor or audience participation. Misko uses a knife with “nothing funny about it” and executes a daring blindfolded card trick to round out his set. 

Before the show concludes, all three magicians come out for a hilarious take on the classic improv show, “Whose Line is it Anyway,” and perform “Whose Trick is it Anyway?” Misko, Meredith, and Harmon approach this improv sketch like old friends. Audience members randomly select a trick and a theme from two lists and then assign one of the three magicians to improvise a trick to fit both themes. The outcome is a brilliant combination of well-executed magic and comedy that makes for a unique conclusion that will also be delightfully different each night of their one-week run. The three magicians do not leave without one more surprise that ties all the sketches together in a satisfying conclusion. 

Spotlight on the Burgh features Pittsburgh magicians but also personifies what makes Pittsburgh magical: Quirky but accomplished, steady but heartfelt, fun and spontaneous but also dependent on the community. Like a magician, Pittsburgh is not always perfect, but the magic always remains.  

TICKETS AND DETAILS

Experience the very best Magic, mentalism and storytelling Pittsburgh has to offer in this special three week run at Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Liberty Magic from now to June 2nd.

Opening – Week 1: Michael Misko, Dan Harmon, Eric Meredith  

Week 2: Michael Misko, Jon Tai, Shane Patrick Crews  

Week 3: Jon Tai, Mr. Messado, Hazard Spence

For tickets visit: