Magic has evolved dramatically over the past five millennia—from magical rituals by priests in Ancient Egypt and ancient Romans performing object manipulation, like the cups-and-balls trick, to the fear and contempt of links between magic and witchcraft and the occult. Interest in more contemporary magic and illusions rose significantly in the 19th century, thanks to Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, the French magician dubbed the “father of modern magic.” Magicians and illusionists continued to conquer the world of entertainment, and later television, leading to well-known magicians Tommy Cooper, David Nixon, David Copperfield, Doug Henning, Paul Daniels and the worldwide phenomenon Harry Houdini.
Magic has continued to trend, with multiple prime-time television shows and entertainment spots giving exposure to magicians and illusionists. The pandemic further boosted the interest in magic as virtual magic shows became a popular entertainment option. Now, Howard Blackwell, owner and resident mentalist at Holy City Magic, a magic and comedy theater in Charleston, South Carolina, is seeing this form of entertainment bringing in crowds and packing physical venues again.
Blackwell, who aims to bring in world-class entertainers for every show at his theater, has had a special relationship with magic since he was young. He did his first paid show when he was 12 years old, performed to get himself through college and developed his own specialty: reading minds, making people laugh and “doing the impossible.” For Blackwell, starting Holy City Magic was a no-brainer.
“I opened the theater a little over four years ago. Small magic theaters are becoming very popular, and now there are several of them across the United States. I wanted to do something to keep this trend alive,” Blackwell says. “I feel like founding this intimate magic theater and providing an unforgettable night out experience to everyone is just a natural part of the journey.”
Having performed in over 19 countries, Blackwell, a three-time Telly Award winner, has earned recognition as one of the nation’s top corporate entertainers and has been nominated for Stage Magician of the Year. The Tennessee native often tours internationally and is a repeat headliner at Magic Castle, an exclusive venue in Hollywood that hosts the world’s greatest magicians and houses the Academy of Magical Arts, of which Blackwell is a member. The mentalist was recently seen on the ninth season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, where he lost his pants on national television.
Blackwell’s mission is to bring magic and variety to the corporate landscape. He does this by putting on interactive, fascinating and mind-boggling shows geared toward adult audiences but appropriate for all ages. The entertainer has performed for numerous corporations and organizations, including Google, Boeing, Gulfstream, Lexus, Toyota, Armed Forces Entertainment and even the U.S. House of Representatives.
With over 25 years of experience as a professional magician, Blackwell has naturally become a master in corporate stage and strolling magic, theater shows, adult entertainment and cabaret and parlor entertainment. He is known for invoking an intimate personal feel in his shows, regardless of how big the audience is. According to the magician, what makes him stand out as one of the best in the game is his ability to combine wit and humor with mind-reading skills while sprinkling a few classics from the carnival and vaudeville eras. Despite a long career in magic, Blackwell still can’t get enough of people’s reactions every time he performs.
“I love performing for an audience and seeing that sense of amazement in people; making them talk about you for days afterward feels surreal. That’s such a unique feeling,” Blackwell says. “I do performances that stick to people—mind-boggling and entertaining—and I’m confident at doing both.”
All views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and are not endorsed by or reflective of SUCCESS. As a reader-supported publication, we may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.