Riddle me this: How did he do that?
Jackson Ridd, a magician, illusionist, moment-maker and 2007 La Cañada High School graduate, warned audience members last week at the Underground Theater in Hollywood that they might take his work home with them.
He even went so far as to offer party favors to encourage delayed reflection following the show titled “Discoverie of Magic.”
“This isn’t going to be the standard magic show,” said Ridd, 25, as he revved his engine on a polished, hourlong set that includes 10 head-scratching segments, each of them reliant on audience participation.
“And I know,” he added, “because I’ve seen a lot of them.”
Ridd has been studying the craft since he was a middle-schooler, when a David Blaine television special captured his imagination. Soon after, Ridd accompanied his mom to lunch to meet Steve Silverman, the man who would become his magical mentor.
He always was happy to oblige requests from club basketball teammates who wanted to see him do card tricks between games. He also was accepted to the selective Magic Castle Junior Society in Hollywood and, at LCHS, started a magic club — which disbanded, he said, as soon as he graduated. He began performing for free at charity events for organizations such as Union Station Homeless Services and the Ronald McDonald House.
This month, his performances at the Underground Theater are among hundreds in Hollywood’s Fringe Fest, an ongoing community performing arts festival held each June. They’re also the culmination of years devoted to this thing called magic.
“If you’re looking for the flashy showgirls or the colorful props, you’re not going to find it here, but you are going to be finding something a little bit different,” Ridd said early in his show.
“I hope to leave you with something very interesting, to leave you with something … well, I hope to leave you with a mystery that you’ll be discovering at a later moment in time. This show isn’t really going to have an end, because it’s going to end when you want it to.”
It started with Ridd, standing 6 feet, 2 inches, in a smart black suit, asking six audience members to pick numbers between 1 and 47. Those numbers — 2, 8, 22, 27, 32 and 44 — matched, somehow, the numbers on the lottery ticket stashed in Ridd’s wallet.
Ridd also warped and twisted pieces of silverware with a few focused shakes of his wrist. He read one young man’s mind, claiming to decipher from his body language alone that the word the man had silently memorized from the page selected randomly by the audience was “objectively.” He sent each member of the audience home with a fortune cookie and card taped inside the program.
Ridd told tales, relaying autobiographical accounts that made each trick feel personal.
“I liked his story-telling,” said Christine Barger, an acquaintance from the Magic Castle, where she is a ventriloquist and Ridd often performs his sleight-of-hand act. “Not every magician is as good at telling stories and combining it with their effects as he is, so I really liked that.”
At one point deep in the show, Ridd took a seat on a folding chair and related an experience he’d had while living in New York City, a place where he said “you feel connected and yet disconnected at the same, exact time.”
He continued: “I wasn’t too keen on that feeling. It’s almost a feeling [where] you don’t even care if you have friends, per se, you just care that you connect with someone. But I didn’t find it there for the longest time; it could’ve been me, it could’ve been them, but when I was going through that period, it just wasn’t fun.
“One day I was sitting on my bed in this hot, cramped, small apartment and I decided to go outside [with] my miserable little self, and something happened that I did not expect. I couldn’t have called it for anything. But a woman said to me, ‘Hello, Jackson. How are you today?’ She genuinely cared how I was and how I was feeling, and this was a woman, by the way, who I hadn’t spoken to since I moved in.”
Soon an audience member was seated where Ridd had been, beside her friend, who sat in another beige folding chair a few feet over. Ridd appeared perhaps to hypnotize his participants, both of whom claimed afterward that they’d been touched on their left shoulder — even though Ridd appeared only to have lightly tapped one of them.
“You two,” he told them, “share a special connection.”
That’s the real fun of it, Ridd explained as Helia Ansari and Thomas Neal, friends serving as his producer and consultant, helped him pack up his props.
“Honestly, all I want to do with this is to create an experience for people,” Ridd said. “I really just care about creating the experience for everyone, because that’s what got me into magic, and that’s what makes magic special.”
Having a confoundingly enjoyable experience in the audience for the second show in a week was Caroll Wong, Ridd’s mother. An engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she’d come initially to support her son; she’d come back, she said, to try to figure out how he did it.
After watching closely a second time around, she wasn’t any closer to detecting clues.
“I don’t want to ask, though,” she said. “I don’t want to spoil it.”
As for those thought-provoking parting gifts? Let’s not spoil that, either.
To discover more, visit jaxridd.com.