Just as the weekend of March 14 to 15 was getting underway so was the wave of shutdowns that would halt business across swaths of the country as the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold in the United States.
Woodmere native and Oceanside resident Eric Wilzig, who was building his career as an illusionist and magician, was not immune and the engagements he had for that Passover weekend disappeared as quick as a prop in one of his illusions. “We were in the same pickle as any other entertainer,” he said.
Faced with losing the career he had built, Wilzig, 27, relied on his imagination and the business sense he gained from studying finance and marketing at Rutgers University (he graduated summa cum laude) and created what he calls a “Virtual Magic & Illusion Show” that he and Eliana produce from the basement of their South Shore home. His wife, Eliana, became his assistant.
Performing shows of up to an hour using the Zoom video conferencing platform or YouTube, the Wilzigs play before companies, birthday parties, teacher appreciation events, and on Mother’s Day have a half dozen shows scheduled. Shows include illusions, including a Harry Houdini-like escape, Eliana’s fire routine and interactive card tricks.
“The magic studio is setup with the back drops and there are cameras every here,” he said. “It looks homey. Everyone feels they are getting a front row seat to a real magic show. We have done over 75 shows.”
Shows are performed for audiences in the tri-state area as well as across the country and Canada, Wilzig said. Pricing varies and fees are 80 percent of what he would charge for an in-person live show, but that includes much more equipment, travel time and the other costs associated with being on the road.
The ultimate goal is to not sit around and do nothing,” he said. The goal is to keep our name out there.” He added another bonus. Never being late to the shows as all the Wilzigs do is walk down a few stairs and voila, it is show time.
Intrigued by magic since he was 5, Wilzig won the top prize after competing against many adults in a talent show aboard a cruise ship seven years later. At 18, the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway graduate created the show “Extreme Magic of Eric” as a Rutgers freshman.
Before the Covid-19 health crisis, Wilzig had performed on college campuses, resorts and television, including “America’s Got Talent” and the CBS Morning show. “The best and most unique show that’s hit our campus in years!,” the Rutgers University newspaper wrote. Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi said on Wilzig’s website: “Our guests can’t stop raving about your magic!”
“We are making the best out of this situation,” Wilzig said.
To learn more, go to virtualillusionist.com.