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Theater for hire

Putting the “magic” in Magic City

Capstone the Magician performing downtown for Tours of Tulsa

Greg Bollinger

By the time Chris Capstone was 16, he was already getting paid for his passion in life—stage magic. Like many kids in the 1970s, Capstone saw Marshall Brodien TV Magic Cards commercials and bought a deck. After discovering a trunk of magician’s props in his uncle’s attic, he began pursuing magic seriously.

“I had that experience,” Capstone said. “And I got exposed to a more serious kind of magic than just what you could buy at the drugstore in the little toy section.”

Capstone is of the last generation of magicians that picked up their secrets from older illusionists in the backrooms of magic shops.

“You had to go and get to know other magicians, and then in time, if you proved yourself worthy to those magicians, then they would show you some secrets.”

While in high school, his family moved to London for about three years. He met a local magician who invited him to London’s Magic Circle, a members-only magic club. There, he attended lectures and learned their tricks. In the summer he traveled Europe and busked on the streets.

As trade secrets became publicly accessible through instructional videos and the internet, the in-person transmission of magic plummeted. Capstone expressed frustration at these changes, remarking that people who learn magic in isolation lack training and historical knowledge—they’re hobbyists, not professionals.

“You’ve got to progress beyond that,” he said. “To me, being a magician isn’t just doing a trick. Being a magician is a performance art. There’s got to be some context, people need to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, you need to have a character, you need to have a theatrical atmosphere.”

By the early ‘90s, Capstone was self-employed and supporting his family entirely on magic shows. Currently, he works private gigs and performs at various locations, such as Tulsa City-County Libraries and the Cherry Street Farmers Market.

“Do you guys believe in magic?” Capstone asked, beginning his street act downtown on August 11. One woman said “Sure!”

“Man, you’re crazier than I am.”

A family of three generations had crowded around, two younger girls and several businessmen approached. Capstone worked his sleight of hand: making coins disappear and multiply, doing card tricks, causing a length of rope to divide and reconnect, and three red balls to shift and vanish underneath brass cups.

His performances are Vaudevillian and comical. And his props—either authentic or replica apparatuses invented during the “Golden Age” of magic—are only part of the act. It’s personality that makes Capstone a real magician. In his top hat, round glasses, and large mustache, Chris Capstone becomes someone else entirely.

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