It all started at The Magic Castle, the mysterious private club in Hollywood that hosts the best magicians in the world. After a damaging fire threatened to close the establishment for good, the members decided to hold a grand reopening. That’s when Derek DelGaudio, co-founder of the performance art duo A.Bandit, entered the picture.
“I was asked to work one of the showrooms as sort of like a reopening of the castle, with another magician, another friend of mine who is a great performer,” DelGaudio said recently during a phone interview. “I was reluctant, but it was a friend of mine who asked me to do it and then a friend of mine who was going to be the performer. So I thought, this will be a nice way to go back to the Castle.”
DelGaudio committed himself to the project and secured a spot in one of the intimate theaters of the legendary Magic Castle. And then problems began to occur. A few days after accepting, his friend dropped out of the show after receiving a part on a TV show.
“So I was like, uh…,” DelGaudio said. “There was really no one else I wanted to work with at the time. And it was just for a two-night show, and coincidentally my friend from Portugal, who I had known for a few years … decided to move to L.A. and be around The Magic Castle.”
That friend is Helder Guimarães, and the rest is magic history.
“So he agreed to step in, and so we threw a show together in like a week,” he said. “And it was the first time I did a show like this together or any show together, and the reaction was crazy. People really enjoyed it.”
The response to the duo act was tremendous, so much so that scoring a coveted seat at The Magic Castle for the original run was nearly impossible. That’s when plans were set in motion to take the show to the Geffen Playhouse’s intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, where Nothing to Hide has been playing to sold-out crowds for a couple of months. Ticket sales have been so brisk that the Geffen has extended the play through Feb. 24.
Details on the show are best kept hidden, but the Geffen promises “engaging vignettes brought to life solely from the words and hands of two masterful magicians.”
“I’ve always thought magic and mystery and wonder is an amazing thing, and the only thing that stands in the way of people appreciating it are the people that are presenting it,” DelGaudio said. “So I’m not surprised that when you work hard, put a lot of love and effort into presenting a good project, put a good show together, I’m not surprised that people respond to it positively. But I’m surprised at how positive it has been.”
Throughout the show’s evolution, the performance piece has expanded and added a famous director: Neil Patrick Harris, star of How I Met Your Mother and president of the Academy of Magical Arts. “Neil has always been a believer in magic in the best sense,” DelGaudio said of his director. “He’s able to see the world through a child’s eyes and present that. … He’s been shepherding this onto this larger platform, and he’s just super supportive. He gets me, he gets us, he gets our show. And he also is super seasoned, where I tend to think more abstractedly or conceptually about the ideas and what I want to say and do, and maybe not thinking about the practicality of the situation, Neil is always the first to kind of let me know the reality of the situation.”
The transition of the sleight-of-hand show from The Magic Castle to the Geffen took some time and hard work. “We had a real punk rock vibe at the Castle and it was an educated crowd, and even the people who weren’t educated, they were in an environment where they were informed by the people around them,” he said. “I mean when we did this at the Castle, we had people waiting in line for four hours or more to see us. It was like when Space Mountain opened at Disneyland. So we didn’t really need to do much other than go out and do a great job. But at the Geffen, people see some of the best performers, best directors, best writers in the world work on that stage. So we were playing against Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and directors … It’s a different level, and we’re graded on a different curve. But I’m very proud that our show can stand on a stage that has those types of credits and those types of talents working on it. It’s pretty amazing.”
DelGaudio admitted that his love for the craft came much later in life, although he appreciated the “romance” of magic as a child. Today, he’s grown into a diverse performance artist, one that tries to redefine the definition of magic in 2013. “I’m always trying to not let what the word magician means necessarily apply to me,” he said. “I’m trying to create it for myself.”
Now, several months after he was first pitched the idea of working again at The Magic Castle, DelGaudio finds himself attached to Guimarães as a performer. He can’t think of doing the show without his colleague by his side. “There’s no one else I could replace Helder with that I would trust on all of those levels and vice versa,” he said.
In the future, Nothing to Hide might jump across the country and set up its magic shop in New York City. “But after that, who is to say,” DelGaudio said. “We have different goals in a long-term sense. So it’ll also come from working apart. I think we’re taking it (on a) project-by-project basis. I don’t think we’re forming a duo, not like Penn & Teller or anything like that. But if another idea for a show came along, we would jump on the opportunity to work together, because we do work well together.”
For both magic enthusiasts and those on the fence about the craft, DelGaudio recommends giving Nothing to Hide a chance. “I believe that mystery really is a universal experience,” he said. “It’s something, if presented properly, is an inherent property that we are all drawn to and think is beautiful.”
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com