Visitors to Manresa Castle on the evening of Nov. 16 were treated to two shades of illusion through “The Enchantment Show,” combining stage magic with burlesque …
Visitors to Manresa Castle on the evening of Nov. 16 were treated to two shades of illusion through “The Enchantment Show,” combining stage magic with burlesque performances.
Organizers of the Castle’s entertainment programs see this event as emblematic of the Castle’s overall approach to providing a rainbow of entertainment within a single venue.
A KIND OF MAGIC
“The Enchantment Show” alternated stage magicians such as “Professor” D.R. Schreiber, Weedini (a.k.a. Leland Hirschman) and the Great Cigma with burlesque performers such as Ms. Peeky Cheaks and Nyp Leigh, but as far as Schreiber is concerned, the two sets of performers have a lot in common.
Indeed, while Schreiber gave due veneration to the famous magicians who had inspired his own career path, he noted how magicians in venues such as the Castle differ from their more famous professional peers.
“Of course, I grew up watching guys like Harry Blackstone Jr. and David Copperfield on TV in the 1980s, but my mom, who was a teacher, was the one who taught me magic,” Schreiber said. “You see guys like Copperfield and Lance Burton performing these big illusions in places like Las Vegas, but there’s not as much focus on the smaller scale. Back in the 1800s, magic was performed in the parlor rooms of the elites, as a form of after-dinner entertainment, which is where the term ‘parlor magic’ came from.”
Schreiber cited Steve Cohen, dubbed “The Millionaire’s Magician” by the press for performing in intimate, exclusive venues such as the Lotte New York Palace Hotel in Manhattan and private parties.
“It’s actually a requirement, to attend his shows, that you put on a coat and tie,” Schreiber said.
At the same time, Schreiber is no snob, and has happily taught many of his magic skills to burlesque performers, because he sees magic and burlesque as kindred fields.
“I know burlesque is often called ‘the art of the tease,’ but it is a form of illusion,” Schreiber said. “When you create a character for the stage like that, that’s a kind of magic in its own right.”
Schreiber first performed at Manresa Castle earlier in the year, and found himself promoting the venue to his peers for its similarities to another castle that’s significant to magicians.
“I’m a member of the Academy of Magical Arts, which runs the premiere magic club house in Hollywood, known as the Magic Castle,” Schreiber said. “Manresa Castle is very reminiscent of the Magic Castle, a 1907 Victorian mansion. These wonderful old buildings have long been a comfortable place for magicians to perform.”
In his return to Manresa Castle, Schreiber was joined by Hirschman, performing there for the first time as “Weedini,” complete with his marijuana leaf-themed suit and authentic herbal odor “to get into character.”
The origins of Hirschman’s stage persona are simple — “I’m a huge stoner who likes magic” — and he’s self-effacing about his blend of stand-up comedy and stage magic, saying, “I enjoy comedy, but I’m probably not good enough at it to do just that.”
Nonetheless, both Hirschman and Schreiber’s primary goal is for audiences to enjoy themselves while taking in the spectacles generated by their alter egos.
“Rather than turning it into a challenge, to try and solve the puzzle, just let yourself enjoy the silliness,” Schreiber said. “People don’t ask how they can make laser swords appear in Star Wars.”
“All we’re asking for is the same suspension of disbelief that you’d give to a movie,” Hirschman said. “I just want folks to have a good time.”
‘NERDLESQUE’ AND OTHER GENRES
Aleksandra Bukovic, self-proclaimed “Mistress of Fusion,” serves as the producer and director of Manresa Castle’s burlesque productions.
After traveling for years with a cabaret based out of the Midwest, Bukovic moved to Portland, Oregon, and felt “a big spark” as she became part of its burlesque community.
“It was so welcoming and inclusive,” Bukovic said. “I was inspired by all these amazing performers who were so enthusiastic about what they were doing, and I caught the bug.”
Bukovic took the time to study dance further, as well as take in the creative concepts of her fellow burlesque performers’ acts, and when she came to the Castle, she made it her ethos to make the Castle a nurturing venue for a diversity of ideas and talents.
“I choose a new theme for every production at the Castle, to keep the style of the show exciting, interesting, and relevant,” Bukovic said. “And when I book performers, I firstly choose to include at least one local talent. This is very important to me, as it reflects and supports the local dance scene, and can give performance opportunities to newer or come-back dancers in our area.”
Bukovic also believes in booking performers who “represent the burlesque scene positively.”
“We have a relatively small burlesque community in this area, so I want the Castle to be a creative space, and a safe place for performers to express themselves through their art,” Bukovic said.
While Bukovic seeks to showcase a variety of styles of burlesque — the Castle’s next burlesque show is Saturday, Dec. 21, and is themed around Prohibition, “embarking into the ‘20s by celebrating the Roaring Twenties,” in her words — she admitted to a particular affinity for “nerdlesque.”
“I have two Lord of the Rings-themed sets,” Bukovic said. “I like horror-themed stuff too, that’s scary and creepy and dark.”
Bukovic doesn’t want any of those scares to be off-putting to audiences, though, since her goal is for the Castle to maintain a convivial atmosphere that offers “a great time that you can feel good about inviting your friends and family to.”
ALL UNDER ONE ROOF
Cameron Roberts pointed out that the renaissance of Manresa as an entertainment venue is relatively recent.
“The Castle only just reopened last October,” said Roberts, who’s in charge of the Castle’s dining and entertainment options. “Before that, it was closed down for two and a half years. As a venue, we’re still sort of figuring out our identity, and allowing Port Townsend to define us based on what it’s looking for.”
What this means to Roberts is that the Castle needs to host more than just live music, as much as he enjoys providing an outlet to area musicians.
“At first, we were thinking of just serving cocktails, but then, that expanded to a restaurant, and now, we’re looking at hosting parties,” Roberts said. “We don’t want to be pigeonholed.”
Roberts plans to have both ends of the Castle busy serving customers, by opening a cafe and a sports bar in addition to the existing dinner lounge, “so we can use the whole space, and your tab can follow you wherever you go.”
By next summer, Roberts even anticipates the Castle hosting outdoor concerts in its courtyard, but he also wants to ensure the Castle can serve as a venue for forms of entertainment that “might not work” at other establishments.
“With burlesque, in addition to the sexiness, there’s also the comedy and the elegance of the performances,” Roberts said. “And magicians practically sell themselves. We put both types of performers together for the same event this Saturday because they’re both so much fun, and their talents are so astonishing.”
For more information about what’s coming up at Manresa Castle, visit thecastleinpt.com.