Magician David Caserta decided to think outside of the box when it came to creating his latest, and arguably most auspicious, illusion to date. The Moore Township resident has gone so far as to remove the box from the equation.
Caserta plans to saw himself, not his assistant, in half on Halloween during his "Haunted Illusions" tour stop at the State Theatre in Easton. Rather than be placed in a wooden box or crate, Caserta will be strapped to what he described as a metal structure resembling the framework of a box, adorned with Steampunk-style gears, giving the audience a full, 360-degree view of what is transpiring in front of them.
The illusion is about three years in the making, Caserta said.
"I'm visible the entire time, so the audience can see me, from head to toe. A buzzsaw passes through my midsection, then I crank myself apart so you can see right through me," Caserta enthusiastically explained Tuesday evening during a phone interview.
The classic sawing-an-assistant-in-half illusion was introduced by English magician P.T. Selbit in 1921, Caserta said. As the trick caught on with audiences, other magicians and illusionists began copying and tweaking Selbit's routine, adding their own twists to the trick, Caserta added.
Though the buzzsaw illusion is the centerpiece of "Haunted Illusions," Caserta promised other spooky surprises during the show. There will be the floating assistants, ghostly encounters, disappearing acts, close-up sleight of hand illusions and more. "I still use a lot of audience participation. It's a show for the whole family," Caserta said. "I like to get the adults involved."
Caserta said the buzzsaw illusion has been generating the most chatter since he has taken it on the road. "At the end of the show, I like to ask the audience during the meet-and-greet what their favorite part of the show is. Typically, I'll make my assistant float in the show and usually that's a big highlight. But it's crazy, almost every comment has been about sawing myself in half."
Caserta, who taped an audition for the ninth season of the reality television competition series America's Got Talent, has been performing professionally for more than 25 years. (Though Caserta was featured in commercials leading up to the season premiere, the full audition never aired on TV.) Caserta said he does his best to ensure secrets are not spilled. "Because as soon as someone knows (how I do) it, it's a weird pun, but it takes the magic out of it," he said.
"Haunted Illusions" has been brought to theaters and performance venues across the country for about a decade, Caserta said. Caserta said this year's version of "Haunted Illusions" is the one of which he is most proud. "I've taken the best of what I've done through the years and added to it. It's the type of thing that if I have to take something out of the show, it's hard to choose," he said. "What I love the most and what I've learned the most is that every audience is different. You can't just go up there and phone it in.
"I try to be on point every show because I know if you don't, the audience will eat you up. The key is to obviously try to have as much fun as they are watching it."
David Caserta performs "Haunted Illusions: The Magic of David Caserta" 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, at the State Theatre in Easton. Tickets cost $20, $10 for children 12 and under. There will be a pre-show costume contest, starting at 6:30 p.m. Information: statetheatre.org