STEPHENSON, Va. – Local magician, mentalist and illusionist Mario Orsini will again deliver his new monthly show “Tricks of the Mind” Friday night here at the Historic Jordan Springs Event & Cultural Centre, a venue well known for paranormal activity.
Orsini’s intimate evening of magic and mind-reading happens in a small theater located on the ground floor of the main house at the estate. Only 50 people can attend each show so that each audience member gets a close-up view and a chance to take part in Orsini’s tricks.
Jordan Springs has been featured on TV shows such as “My Ghost Story” on the Biography Channel and “Haunted Collector” on the SyFy Channel and has been the focus of many paranormal investigations. “I like to play off the place being haunted,” Orsini said. “It’s a little spooky, but then I want to make people laugh during the show, too.”
Orsini said he preps audience members for the show as soon as they arrive. “I feel like we’re messing with people’s minds from the moment they pull up,” he said. “We kind of design it that way.”
After parking behind the massive, 48,000-square-foot facility, guests enter the historic building and are immediately directed down a stone staircase and through a maze of dungeon-like hallways where the ceiling gets progressively lower, finally opening into the well-lit, cozy 1832 Pub.
“It kind of makes you a little uneasy, and then you get in here and you realize it’s a warm, open place,” Orsini said. “Of course you have to go back in the dungeon to get out again.”
At a “Tricks of the Mind” this spring, guests began arriving in the pub around 6 p.m. for cocktails, bar fare and pre-show card tricks by magician and illusionist Jonathon Ford.
Many of those in attendance had never before seen a magic show. Amy Harrison, of Leesburg, Va., and her friend Stephanie Klonicke, of Purcellville, Va., said they had no idea what to expect.
Others, like Jodi Brock and Kelsey Shipper, both of Bunker Hill, are longtime fans of Orsini. The pair sported matching T-shirts with “Mario + Me = Magic” printed on them. “It was a couple years ago, I think it was one of his first shows, and I said we should get shirts made to show our support,” Brock said. “So we got them made and started wearing them to his shows.”
At 7 p.m., guests were led into the small theater and seated at candlelit tables as songs like “I’ve Got the Magic in Me” and “Do You Believe in Magic?” set the mood for Orsini’s entrance.
Dressed in jeans, a black button-up shirt and a black blazer, Orsini then took the stage to entertain the crowd with astonishing feats of illusion and mind-reading, which included making a wine bottle disappear before the audience’s eyes and correctly naming a word in the mind of volunteer from the audience.
“No magic show is complete without 30 card tricks,” he warned the audience during the first half of the show. Indeed, many of Orsini’s tricks included cards. He performed one of David Copperfield’s famous tricks, which involves tearing a card — in this case, one signed by an audience member — and then magically restoring it with the signature intact.
Orsini saved his most amazing trick, which he credits to Harry Houdini, for the finale. For this trick, he swallowed a long piece of thread followed by a glass full of needles. After allowing an audience member to inspect his mouth, he then slowly pulled out the threaded needles to the awe and shocked gasps of the crowd.
Orsini has been performing in front of large audiences since 2008, when he made Marshall University’s basketball head coach appear “out of thin air” on the court at Cam Henderson Center.
Since then, Orsini has appeared at dozens of venues and events, including the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, the Miss West Virginia pageant four years in a row, the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival and the General Jackson Showboat in Nashville, Tenn.
After his first national TV appearance on the Shotgun Red Variety Show in 2012, Orsini kicked off 2013 with an invitation to perform at a private dinner for state legislators and other leaders at the University of Charleston where Orsini even enticed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin up on stage to help with one of his tricks.
While aiming to mystify the audience with his mind-reading and illusions, Orsini also mixes comedy and storytelling into his 90-minute shows, commanding the crowd’s attention with his charisma and enthusiasm.
“I kind of like to take people on a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, so you’re not laughing the whole time, and you’re not amazed the whole time,” he said. “It’s a little bit of everything. And I have some surprises in there.”