PANAMA CITY — When Ken Spencer performs Friday at the Marina Civic Center, he plans to recreate a trick Harry Houdini perfected almost 100 years ago.
“In 1914, Houdini walked through a solid brick wall on Broadway,” Spencer said in a conversation this week as he prepared the stage. “It got a great audience response, but he stopped doing it. The question was, why quit doing something everybody loved? But no one since then has attempted that illusion live on stage.”
When a company that prepares live stage illusions asked Spencer if he would be interested in walking through a wall, he couldn’t turn down the chance. It took months of work to perfect the trick, and what will happen Friday will include a volunteer from the audience.
“We will have eight concrete cinderblocks on the stage, and we’ll invite someone from the audience to come up and examine them,” Spencer said. “They will stay right there until we use them, stay visible the whole time. I will invite a man from the audience to come on stage, we’ll build a wall on top of two steel bars, and while he holds onto the wall, I’ll visibly walk through the concrete.”
Spencer, who performs with his wife, Cindy, joked the new skill is great if you get locked out of your house, but it “doesn’t work that well with cars.”
For more than a decade, the Spencers have dazzled the world with their engaging personalities, entertaining stage magic and breath-taking illusions. They have left a trail of accolades in their wake with more than 20 national awards, making them one of the most recognized and honored performance teams in the industry.
“We call the show ‘Theatre of Illusion’ because it is a combination of our love for theatre and our passion for the art of magic,” Spencer said. “We believe that magic deserves the same respect as other art forms and, when presented in the right way, magic should move an audience intellectually and emotionally in the same way that good dance, music or theatre does.”
Theatre of Illusion is more than a magic show, he said. It is one of the largest touring illusion productions on the road, featuring the work of the leading creators, inventors, designers and builders in the industry, and many original illusions that you won’t see anywhere else.
“It really is a different take on magic,” he said. “We combined lighting, music, movement and scenery, and wrapped those around pretty cool illusions … bringing them into the 21st century. We engage every single person in the audience to help us out.”
Spencer said the show is not like the Vegas revues that feature adult-oriented material. His show is family-friendly for a reason.
“I remember when I was 5, telling my mom that when I grow up I want to be a magician,” he said. “For me, it’s a really great job. The whole space is magical. It’s amazing how much fun we have as a team on that stage creating little miracles and taking the audience to the brink of possibility. That’s where magicians belong, creating the impossible for their audiences.”
The Spencers: Theatre of Illusion
- When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1
- Where: Panama City Marina Civic Center
- Tickets: $20 downstairs, $15 mezzanine, $10 balcony
- Details: MarinaCivicCenter.com