Magic gets a bad rap. From the pretentiousness of David Blaine to the dollar store mystery of Criss Angel, whether relegated to birthday parties or lounge acts, it has a hard time being cool. Yet magic is time-tested. Certainly magicians came before comedians, clowns, and rock and roll. If one perceives magic as stuck in an era of Houdini in chains or David Copperfield hiding the Statue of Liberty, you’re not paying attention in the slightest. In fact, the next wave of magical alchemy, illusions, card tricks, and full-blown spectacles, is experiencing a renaissance, and Columbus is right at the center.
Brandon Gerald has always believed.
For the Columbus magician who goes by the stage name Presto, rapidly become an integral part in the city’s rising scene, magic has never not been cool. Ever since seeing a magic show performed at his elementary school in fifth grade, the Fayetteville, North Carolina native has not stopped in his quest to master the art form.
“I learned from books,” he said. “My parents always encouraged reading, so when I found out there were books about magic, that’s all I ever read. I had always been into books about mysticism and outer space, but when I started with magic—it bit me hard. I immersed myself in it.”
Though Gerald’s study of magic became a lifelong goal, it was never something he considered as a career, instead picking up degrees in videography and business administration in Florida along the way. The transformation into Presto came completely by accident. Asked to work at Theater Magic one summer, a shop and performance space inside Universal Studios theme parks, Gerald was doing multiple scripted 12 minute shows a day, entertaining and enticing tourists to buy kits and tricks. As he became more comfortable going off-script, and crafting his persona, he knew he had a certain gift.
It was at Theater Magic that he became Presto and met Nick Locapo, who after moving to Columbus and founding the P3 Magic Theater along with Dan Harlan, prompted Gerald to do the same. In 2014, Presto packed up and joined the theater’s growing community.
Gerald’s acumen in spreading his love of the art form was a perfect fit for P3, where he not only performs during their regularly sold-out and free Tuesday night shows, but also has a hand in producing instructional videos and the worldwide broadcast of the theater’s celebrated Wednesday night lectures. It’s magic, both experiential and in the viral peripheral, pushing the fourth wall, showing both sides of the curtain astonishing and educating at the same time. As Presto, Gerald can fluctuate between the two, mastering old tricks alongside his once book-bound mentors like Tom Mullica and Harry Anderson, and bringing the freshness and spontaneity of his own brand of street magic (which you can see on his website’s highlight reel) to the P3 stage.
“At first I preferred the energy of doing magic for people on the street and at parties,” says Gerald. “In becoming Presto, I wanted to bring that energy into the show. I rarely have a show scripted, it’s mostly just ad-libbing and bouncing off of the audience.”
Indeed, Presto’s vibe is infectious. It’s magic sometimes peppered with the profane and urbane, everyman comedy, and at times fueled by a few libations. At a recent show, after sets of comedy and indie rock, he headlines and appears to be a couple of beers in when he promises to share with the audience how to perform the “disappearing bottle in the paper bag” trick. After finishing off a Budweiser, Presto assures the crowd that what he is holding is, in fact, a real beer bottle. Placing the bottle into the bag, it’s obvious he’s holding the base, and while turning it over, to show and empty bag, the last remaining drops drip to the laughter of the audience. Shrugging off the mistake, he then crumbles the bag into a ball and tosses it over his shoulder. In an instant, the laughter goes to awe, and then astonished applause. Add some sleight of hand, hypnosis, incredibly complex card tricks, and a Presto show becomes a performance that must be seen to be believed.
“My ultimate goal when I perform is to bring people into another reality—a place where anything is possible, so to speak. A place where the audience can forget about normal everyday stuff and experience something different for a change, because reality can be a bit boring at time if we’re honest with ourselves.”
For more information and a schedule of Presto’s upcoming shows visit thepresto.carbonmade.com.