GLENS FALLS — The art of illusion is more than just a crafty magic trick or a quick sleight of hand.
There is a science to the secrets of the masters who can fool us even when we try to fix our gaze on their hands or even their eyes, hoping for the betrayal of a furrowed brow or a half-upturned lip.
How does a $5 bill turn into a $50 with a triple shake of the folded bill?
How does a coin appear in one hand, pop over to the other hand, to a pocket and then across the room into someone else’s hand?
Some wonder if such tricksters are imbued with ancient powers or a connection to other realms. An alternate reality, perhaps?
Some wonder if there is a connection to the dark arts.
Some believe if they study it long enough, they will put the pieces together and so continue to look for the trick hidden from sight.
And others just want to believe in the magic, no matter how it happened.
“What attracted me to magic — magic is the craft of working with people’s perceptions,” said Australian-born illusionist Simon Coronel, who now lives in Los Angeles. “And perceptions are never right.”
Magic is a closely guarded art form, shrouded in mystery, with most techniques and tricks existing in the minds of their creators.
Some secrets of the magical arts are locked away in a handful of dusty tomes, but books don’t always do the trick.
“You can’t really learn magic from books,” Coronel said on Tuesday. “There’s the nuance of a glance … it has taken me 17 years of obsessive dedication.”
Coronel has been in Glens Falls this week, rehearsing for his upcoming 12-performance run of “Glitches in Reality,” a show about impossible things, at the Charles R. Wood Theater on Glen Street.
Opening Monday evening, “Glitches” is the final show of the Adirondack Theatre Festival summer main stage productions. Many of the scheduled performances are already sold out, said ATF Producing Artistic Director Chad Rabinovitz, urging those who want tickets to get them before they are gone.
“’Glitches in Reality” takes the audience on a journey through the truth behind magic and illusion,” Rabinovitz said. “A truth that is far more amazing than even the illusions themselves.”
What is a glitch in reality?
Perhaps it is that offbeat second that moves you momentarily on a different path, or alters your perception.
There are scientists who believe that parallel universes exist and that’s why we can see two identical-looking people walking past us at the same time, like double vision. Some hypothesize that our existence is merely a computer simulation. Others are certain there is a land just beyond an invisible veil.
Michio Kaku, a theoretical scientist who has been studying string theory for many years, once told this reporter that he believes we are living in a fish bowl-like universe with a much larger being watching us overhead.
Coronel says that our perceptions are never accurate.
“I wish everyone could learn how inaccurate our perceptions are of everything,” he said. “That’s why I always say, ‘This is what I remember seeing.’ No one is ever accurate. “
So maybe that cup of coffee is really dark tea or maybe you did see two of the same person or the dog’s coat is really hot pink. Maybe that shadow you catch in the corner of your eye is really someone in another realm.
Does that mean when Coronel turns the $5 into a $50, it really is a $50? Can Coronel really change the denomination of cash?
“No,” he said.
And if he could, he would be living a much more luxurious life, he said laughing.
So how does he do what appears impossible?
A scientist and engineer at heart, with a degree in human psychology and software engineering, Coronel studies people. The way we move, the way we react to things, our body language, our facial expressions, our hands, all give him clues and insights into perception.
And in his quest to throw a glitch into the audience’s reality, he’s always looking for ways to prolong that feeling.
“Reality glitches happen for only a second,” he said. “It’s my personal quest to draw out the moment. Reality can be more than what you think it is.”
Coronel loves the feeling of that sense of an alternate or parallel universe, a bit like slipping into the “Twilight Zone.”
In one of his moves, he is able to bend the handle of a piece of silverware drawn on a page without ever touching the drawing, and the watcher knows what they have witnessed surpasses a simple magic trick.
It wasn’t until Coronel was in his first year at university that he became interested in magic.
Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, Coronel said, he was a shy, introverted, thoughtful kid who was fascinated by space. He tried playing instruments, he tried sports. But it wasn’t until orientation week at Melbourne University that he found his niche when he was drawn to the Magic Club’s table.
He joined the club, learned his first trick that he could perform badly in a few days and has been perfecting his art ever since.
“More than anything is my desire to learn more and do the best I can at this,” he said.
Coronel uses mirrors to watch his movements, he studies human perception, he has learned graphic design, Photoshop, presentation skills, making prop devices, has become an expert in adhesives and is always exploring how to improve.
And in that process he said he is not afraid to fail.
“I like trying things that I am certain aren’t going to work. Witnessing the failure gives you new ideas, it’s very effective in all areas of life,” he said. “It’s not always what you assume. And every now and then it works.”
Coronel’s been getting international awards for his performances for nearly 17 years, some of the more recent include: Finalist, Best International Show, Hollywood Fringe Festival; Winner: Most Popular Show, Melbourne Magic Festival; Winner, Highly Commended New Work, Short and Sweet Theatre Festival; Winner, Most Original Close-Up Act, FISM World Magic Championships.
As of Saturday afternoon, tickets for “Glitches in Reality” are nearly sold out. There are 57 tickets remaining over the course of 12 shows, Rabinovitz said.