This monthly Chatterbox column features members of the Bay Area theatre community discussing a favorite Theatre Bay Area magazine cover, which is really a great excuse for dipping into the rich history of Bay Area theatre and talking to wonderful theatre artists about their peers and memorable productions.
Theatre artist: Christian Cagigal
Favorite Theatre Bay Area cover: September 2004
A funny thing happened to Christian Cagigal on his way to being a cover boy for Theatre Bay Area's magazine. His wide-eyed, smiling face, in a photo by Jim Fassbinder, appeared on the cover just as the magazine was transitioning into a new phase, leaving the old name, "Callboard," behind.
“It was a huge honor to be on the cover of the magazine,” Cagigal says on the phone from his Daly City home. “I was doing a theatrical magic show as part of the Fringe Festival, which is why the photo showed me with a card on my forehead. But I wasn’t sure what the photo said about Bay Area theatre.”
And, strangely enough, there was not a corresponding story in the magazine, to go with Cagigal’s photo. So here, eight years later, is a story to go with the cover.
“What was great about that cover was that it helped legitimize that there was a magician doing a theatre festival,” Cagigal says. “An issue that I have with magic is that a lot of what people see is cheesy and not what you’d call art or expression. I blame magic for that. So what I and a handful of magicians across the country are trying to do is combine magic and theatre, but that can be a tough sell. Theatres don’t necessarily understand that a piece of theatre can involve magic and illusion.”
When Cagigal left San Francisco State University with a degree in theatre, he cut his teeth in musical theatre in shows with 42nd Street Moon and was a member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. But his real passion has been magic, and that’s where he’s focusing his energies these days.
His breakthrough show, the one that really began to mine the theatre of magic, was “Now and at the Hour,” which he first performed at EXIT Theatre in 2009. “That was the first show where I felt I really created magic in a room with an audience without irony,” he says. “The audience was actually essential to the plot and the outcome of the show.”
Cagigal recently toured “Now and at the Hour” to Montreal and Chicago, and he's debuted a new show, “The Collection,” in which he says he makes the audience “contemplate their own dark, evil soul. But I’m saying too much.”
Last summer, Cagigal performed for the first time at the American Mecca of magic, the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. And he and filmmaker HP Mendoza are making a performance film of “Now and at the Hour.”
Looking at his face on the TBA cover eight years ago, Cagigal says he’s come a long way as a performer since then. “I’m not sure I’ve truly succeeded at mixing theatre and magic,” he says, “but I’m further ahead than a lot of other people.”
Chad Jones has been writing about Bay Area theatre since 1992. He blogs at theaterdogs.net.
The views represented in this Chatterbox Art & Opinion post are those of the individual author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Theatre Bay Area or its staff.