Crucen’s magical career reaches 45th year
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
One of magician Chris Mitchell’s favorite tricks is tearing a copy of the Las Cruces Bulletin into shreds and then making it whole again.
That and about 30 other slights of hand make up the collection of tricks he has been performing for the past 45 years in Las Cruces, New Orleans, Kansas and across the United States and Canada.
Mitchell, 53, said he became interested in magic at the age of eight while watching the television series “The Magic Land of Allakazam,” starring Mark Wilson, which came on after Saturday morning cartoons.
Mitchell started buying magic magazines and soon learned to vanish a coin and mastered other tricks during his childhood in Kansas City and Burlington, Kansas. He continued as a magician at Burlington High School, where he won the state championship in improvisational acting.
While attending Washburn University in Topeka, Mitchell played bass guitar in a college band and assisted the theater program with technical issues like lighting and sound. After graduating in 1987 with a degree in history and political science, he decided to pursue magic as a full-time career, and was hired to do sound and light checks for a 40-week magic tour that took him throughout the United States and Canada.
Mitchell advanced to the role of magician’s male assistant on the tour, moving boxes on stage and helping with tricks that included vanishing an elephant – the same elephant that would later appear in the movie “Big Top Pee Wee.”
“That’s when magic became my career,” Mitchell said.
His first professional trick was building a box out of three pieces of cardboard. That and other tricks became part of the magic act he performed at restaurants and other venues and for corporate clients that included Santa Fe Railroad and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
Mitchell said he was at a friend’s house in 1992 when that friend received a job offer by phone from a magic shop owner in New Orleans. The friend declined the offer, but Mitchell took it. He wound up managing the Magic Masters Magic Shop in New Orleans, where he demonstrated and sold magic tricks to clients that included Melissa Etheridge, Howie Mandell, Linda Carter and Billy Joel.
While in New Orleans, Mitchell also served as the magic consultant on “The Big Easy” television series. He also was the resident magician on the Cajun Queen and the Creole Queen river boats, and he performed on cruise ships and in local hotels.
In 1999, Mitchell’s daughter, Madeline, was born. His wife at the time, Rozilynn, didn’t want their child to be raised in the big city, so the couple moved to Kerrville, Texas, where Mitchell’s father had a medical practice. Mitchell continued performing magic and also worked at a radio station.
In 2005, the couple moved to Las Cruces, where Rozilynn had grown up. Madeline is now a drum major at Oñate High School. Mitchell also has a son, Kyle, 26, who is in dental school at the University of Louisville; and a daughter Abigail, who is an eighth grader being home schooled.
Mitchell works for Electronic Caregiver, a home healthcare service, and has performed magic shows for their employees in Las Cruces, Jackson, Mississippi and Phoenix.
In conjunction with the New Mexico State University Kinesiology and Dance Department, he also has put together “the world’s first and only mobile gait analysis lab” to study how people walk,
COURTESY PHOTO Mitchell said.
“The magician is really an actor playing the part of a magician,” Mitchell said. He wears black clothes and Chuck Taylor tennis shoes on stage – no top hat or cape for him. “I am what I feel a magician should be,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell credits French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin with moving magic “from the street to the parlor,” but magician Mark Wilson “will always be my hero,” he said.
Mitchell said he doesn’t have a favorite magic trick, but really likes “the ones that engage the audience the best,” which he said is his favorite part of any show. “Every show is different because I feed off the audience. I love the looks on the faces, I love the crowd. The wow factor – the sense of ‘how did he do that?’ is worth it,” Mitchell said.
Misdirection – “that’s the essence” of magic, he said.
The best magicians “entertain first; they don’t make it about the tricks,” Mitchell said. “It’s all about having a style. The good ones tell the best stories.”
Mitchell makes regular trips to Los Angeles and Las Vegas to perform, and said he would “go in a heartbeat” if the opportunity for another national or international tour came along. “I’d love to go to Europe,” he said. “I’d love to go back to Canada.”
Mitchell has performed magic in all 48 contiguous states – New Mexico was his last stop as a performer. He’s also done shows in Washington, D.C., and has visited all 50 states and all their capitals.
Mitchell said he also loves attending magic conventions in person once or twice a year, and he just completed a 50-hour online convention.
Even after 45 years in the magic business, Mitchell said he still enjoys performing at kids’ birthday parties. “They humble me and they boost my ego at the same time. A kid will ask me for my autograph, and another kid will come to me and tell me he knows how it (a magic trick) was done,” he said.
Mitchell said his advice to any would-be magician is “go back to the old way of doing things.” The internet, he said, “is killing brick and mortar magic shops,” but they are still the best way to learn magic because the people who run them not only sell magic tricks, they teach others how to do them. “Magic has helped so many people break of out their shells and learn to interact with people. Get your child involved in magic,” he advised, “then he won’t have any money for drugs.” “Magic is an art,” he said. In fact, a bill introduced by U.S. Representative Pete Sessions, R-Texas, would declare magic “a rare and valuable art form and national treasure.”
For more information, contact Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.