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Q&A: Criss Angel

Forget what you think you know about magic as Criss Angel turns the profession on its head. Prepare for a magical mashup of mind-blowing illusions and rock 'n' roll energy.

G.K. Hizer
November 28, 2019

When you ask the general public about the greatest magicians of all time, names like Houdini and David Copperfield will often pop up, with an older generation often referencing Siegfried & Roy or perhaps Penn & Teller as well. Ask a younger generation, however, and you’ll hear one name come up in most conversations: Criss Angel.

Television appearances have been a key to Angel’s success, but not merely with special events. Two separate television series: Criss Angel Mindfreak, and later, Criss Angel BeLIEve, were both popular with fans. They allowed him to expand his audience, becoming one of the most recognized and revered illusionists/magicians of the current generation.

While Angel has continued to build his legacy with both a touring show and residency in Las Vegas, he hasn’t held anything back. In December 2018, Angel opened Mindfreak production in the Criss Angel Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, taking his show and presentation to new extremes. More telling, however, is that Angel earned the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Brotherhood of Magicians, in recognition of his career accomplishments and extending the art of magic and illusions.

Even with so much going on, Angel continues to tour nationally, bringing his RAW: The Mindfreak Unplugged production to the Skyline Event Center this month. Before arriving, he took the time to discuss his influences and creative process.

Q. What initially inspired you to get into magic and follow it as a career?
A. My Aunt Stella taught me my first card trick. I was hooked. My first audience was my Long Island family. My first “assistant” was my mother, who I levitated on a broom. I remember that after that, I felt this incredible sense of power that an adult didn’t understand how it worked, but I did. I practiced magic tricks obsessively from that point and did my first magic show at age 12 at a neighbor’s birthday party. I made $10 for it.

I was inspired by Richiardi, Houdini, and Doug Henning. I was thrilled to play Broadway recently, in the same theater Henning used to perform in.

Q. How do you approach the development of your live show and production?
A. It’s a process that starts with an idea. I have a crazy idea for an illusion or demonstration, and then I sit down with my team to see if we can figure out how to accomplish it. I have an incredible group of over 100 people who work for me, either directly or indirectly. I don’t have to farm things out, so it is all done in-house. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it takes 20 years to figure it out — like the new levitation in my Vegas show at Planet Hollywood.

I have a 60,000 square foot laboratory/studio. In that studio, I have full wood and metal fabrication shops, a staging area, a 60-foot green screen, a graphics department, and editors. I’m always developing new material. I have the infrastructure, and I love creating. Whether it’s a video, an illusion, or a theatrical performance, that’s what I’m into. When I can’t create or come up with something exciting or engaging, that’s when I’ll retire. I have four shows, and I have so much material because I’m always creating.

Q. How does your touring show differ from your larger production?
A. My show at Planet Hollywood is the first fully immersive spectacle that Vegas has ever seen. It’s a crazy show with crazy illusions. RAW is like I’m in your living room, and I’m doing the things you’ve seen me do on TV, but right in front of your face. I wanted to create a different show and experience than the one in Vegas. It takes some of my favorite illusions and demonstrations and strips them down to make them much more up close and personal. People always say that I can’t do it live it’s all effects on TV. Well, see it with your own eyes.

Q. Where do you find inspiration or ideas for developing new tricks and illusions?
A. For me, it’s about connecting with people on an emotional level. I always want to create something unique, original, revolutionary, and some type of connection to the audience on an emotional level. That’s been an ongoing process to figure out how to do that since I was a kid.

Q. Are there magicians you’re impressed with and looking forward to seeing?
A. I’m writing and creating an ensemble touring show, so I’ve been scouring the planet for the best of the best new talent. For now, I’ll keep those names to myself. Watch for a new production from me in 2020.

Criss Angel
Skyline Event Center | Osage Casino Hotel
951 W. 36th St. N. | Tulsa
Dec. 8: 7 p.m.
Must be 18 or older to attend