The Marcus JCC starts out 2019 with an unusual, mystery-packed 90 minutes with Russian-Canadian illusionist Vitaly Beckman, featuring two shows the second weekend in February. A new era of “magic” takes us out of the rabbit-in-the-hat realm to an illusionist genre in this family-friendly show. Beckman defies perception as the interactive audience gets a bird’s eye view.
His shows are known for making drawings and paintings come to life and teleporting playing cards among audience members that are not simply jaw-dropping feats. He wants us to leave his show wondering what life could be without traditional limitations. Beckman has a magical outlook on life we find as we examine his past and current views before the upcoming show.
Jaffe: Describe your family’s journey from Russia to Israel to Canada?
Beckman: In 1990, the Soviet Union opened its borders for Jews … not to come in, but allowed us to get out. Thus, my parents left and repatriated to Israel. It was a secret trip through Europe to avoid terrorists attacking us on the way. My parents still live in Israel today while I moved to North America 10 years ago to pursue my dream of performing in Vegas and on Broadway.
Jaffe: You graduated as an engineer from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology)?
Beckman: I graduated as a mechanical engineer, and unfortunately it doesn’t play into my act as much as I hoped. Although magic has the elements of invention and science, it is still more of a performance art. My studies at Technion were very theoretical. For instance, we learned how to solve a triple integral of a matrix. Go ahead and try to apply it to the real world!
Jaffe: How did you stump Penn & Teller?
Beckman: I always loved Penn & Teller and had the pleasure of showcasing one of my original acts where a photograph comes to life and a bus drives away from the photo. Penn & Teller deliberated for quite a bit and tried a few guesses, which turned out to be wrong, and I got a trophy with the letters F.U. which stands for “Fool Us,” of course.
Jaffe: You’ve had an off-Broadway show? What are some of the exciting venues in which you have performed?
Beckman: The Westside Theatre, where I appeared off-Broadway, was actually the very same venue at which Penn & Teller started their career over 30 years ago, so it was pretty cool! Another exciting venue I had the pleasure of performing at was in Chile, in a beautiful theater that was situated over a lake. It was very magical.
Jaffe: Have you ever been to Georgia (our state, not Russia, LOL) and do you have any impressions about the South?
Beckman: I have only been to Atlanta for a few days for a conference a few years ago. My impression is of warm and hospitable people, but I hope to experience more when I visit next month.
Jaffe: What inspired you as a child to go into this field? Do you take inspiration from David Copperfield?
Beckman: When I was a kid, I used to paint and had a great appreciation for the arts. When I was 14, I was inspired by Copperfield. I decided to pursue magic because I realized it can be a form of expression for me, one where I could innovate and share my imagination with an audience.
Jaffe: Are there any Jewish elements in your life now?
Beckman: Well, I’m Jewish and while not religious, I’m very proud of my heritage.
Jaffe: Are you more like Borat or Jerry Seinfeld?
Beckman: They say I sound like Borat and look like Seinfeld. What do you think?
Jaffe: Ok, the ladies want to know… do you have a girlfriend and is she in your show?
Beckman: Yes, I do have a girlfriend (sorry!), but she is not in my show. I think she’s afraid to get sawed in half…
Beckman’s “Evening of Wonders” will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 9 and 5 p.m. Feb. 10. Tickets are $20 for MJCC members and $28 for the community. For tickets, www.atlantajcc.org or 678-812-4000.