5 Questions with Magician & Theatre-Maker Maritess Zurbano

Maritess Zurbano is an accomplished magician and hypnotist. This weekend, she transforms to a live memoirist as well, telling her story via solo show — with plenty of magic woven throughout — at The Rendezvous in Belltown. The historic (and allegedly haunted) theatre-bar is just the right place for magic to happen.

Theatre-maker Rachel Delmar talked with Zurbano about decolonizing magic, her show as a collective experience, and illusion versus real-life magic. Make Maritess Zurbano Disappear runs March 8, April 2, and April 4 at The Rendezvous.

(Update 3/9: added April 2 show date.) 

Interview content is condensed and edited for clarity.

So tell me, what is this show? Is it a magic show? A solo show? What are we walking into?

In this show I decolonize magic. Because magic is for everyone, not just for people with English accents and long blonde hair. I also perform world-class magic in it. I competed in the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques. You have to be nominated to get in.

What was the genesis of moving from doing magic exclusively to doing a solo show/theatre piece and putting magic on stage in a different way?

I have been a professional magician since I was 22. I bring my own personal history to magic. People look at me and are like, What is this?! What’s going on here?, and they ask me after the show. They want to know my backstory because just me being present is magic. Just me being seen is magic. So I guess what it’s about is about being seen.

A lot of people would love to see Maritess Zurbano disappear because I have a big mouth and I critique the white male world of magic very strongly, and many people want to see me vanish. “STFU, stop complaining.” So I talk about my beginnings about being not seen.

How long have you been working on this show?

I’ve been developing this for a long time in different iterations. I still consider it a workshop. But it was first workshopped at the NYC Fringe Festival. And then I had a dramaturg from the Public Theater. And then I did some other fancy theatre festivals, like at ArtsNova, DR2 Theatre, Saint Marks. But I was still learning how I wanted to perform magic and be a theatre artist. So now, I have this great director, Sara Porkalob, that I’m collaborating with. My last director, Alyza DelPan-Monley, who is also Filipino American, was fantastic. And Sara is too. We have this shorthand going on so I don’t have to explain why I write what I write. So the process is a lot faster. Because it’s faster, I can go deeper.

I love Sara’s specificity in character when she performs, but I can also see it when she directs. 

She allows me to be specific. And to be present as opposed to before when, in my previous iterations, I thought the story was about my mentor. Because he is such a character. But really the play is about me. So finally I’m seeing myself. Finally.

Do magic and hypnosis always go hand in hand? 

Hypnosis is amazing because it’s real. I want to do shit that is google-proof. I love magic that’s real. Because I do believe magic is real. Anything invisible is real. So that includes pain, lust, love. That shit is magic. Or coincidence. You meet someone on the street. They could have been in that store for five more minutes. It’s all about taking note when something happens to you. Note it. Think about it later. What is the universe trying to tell you?

My improv teacher in Las Vegas, who was also a magician, told me when they discover magic is real, it is just the art of listening.

I like that. Why should people come see you disappear?

I believe one of the health crises is loneliness. I think it is very exhausting ignoring each other. We’re surrounded by people all the time. I’m constantly ignoring people on the street, in the grocery store. Is it polite to even start talking to someone? Especially in this town, it’s not so great. So I talk about being invisible and visible, and what does it look like when you actually appear in front of other people.

I also want to show people how to use magic in their lives. Because we’re surrounded by it. The sunset. Trees moving. So I take people on this journey of how I was able to “appear”. Because I was so invisible for most of my life, and people wanted to keep me that way.

So I show the magic that I learned that led me to the world championship of magic. Plus, this collaboration with Sara is going to be great.

Make Maritess Zurbano Disappear runs March 8, April 2, and April 4 at The Rendezvous in Belltown. Tickets $18-$35 (sliding scale available for all), hereAccessibility notes: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall; Jewelbox Theater and main-level bar may be accessed by wheelchair, but other levels and some common areas are not accessible.

Rachel Delmar has been working to get people to come see theatre since she was 9 years old. She has worked around the country as an actor, director, poet, teaching artist, producer, and marketer.