LOWVILLE — One fundraiser at a time, one piece of life-saving machinery at a time, the Lewis County Hospital Auxiliary continues its work to support the county Health System, this time with the help of a little “magic.”
Illusionist Leon Etienne will be performing in the Beaver River Central School auditorium on June 4 at 7 p.m. to raise funds for the auxiliary’s work.
Hailing from Utica, Mr. Etienne said he fell in love with the magic of performing and with magic itself at a young age and hasn’t stopped perfecting his craft since.
Over the past 15 years, he has brought his high-energy performances to audiences in the millions via national television shows including the semifinals of “America’s Got Talent,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Wizard Wars” and “Masters of Illusion.”
He also stumped the pros during his first performance on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us!” but the iconic comedian-magicians saw through his second illusion to his methods.
Mr. Etienne said for the past 10 years he has been touring both nationwide and internationally, entertaining audiences on every continent except for Antarctica.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed that.
Because he could no longer tour, his constant desire to perform and entertain led him down an unconventional path: he created a socially distanced show for driveway and lawn performances as many requests came in from his local fans. He didn’t charge for the shows, but “people donated little bits of money here and there.
He said “it’s been a full circle feeling, coming back to where I started.”
Magic entered Mr. Etienne’s life one day when his mother grounded him — although he says neither of them remember why — and he was so bored without television and video games that when he found a long-forgotten magic book under his bed, he taught himself a trick and showed his mom.
“At that point, at 12 years old, I watched a grown woman’s mind melt right in front of me. I was like, ‘Holy crap! It worked,’ and it just kind of stuck from there,” Mr. Etienne said.
Although he was realistic about the risks of making magic performance his career, he knew he didn’t want it to be a side hustle so he went all-in and studied business and theater in college and hasn’t looked back.
Mr. Etienne’s biggest show involves a number of assistants, pyrotechnics and very dramatic illusions, all with a soundtrack that lives up to the production’s name — “Magic Rocks.”
While his Beaver River production will be smaller than the “Magic Rocks” extravaganza, it will be an “action-packed” 60 to 75 minutes, Mr. Etienne said, including the illusion he did on the Jimmy Fallon show and the same “rock” energy he brings to bigger stages.
“Go in expecting to have fun because that’s what I’m doing,” Mr. Etienne said. “This day and age, I think the world needs magic more than ever before... Prepare to have a good time and come in with an open mind.”
The Lewis County show will be the first time Mr. Etienne has performed in the area, although last summer he had a weekly residency at the Strand Theater in Old Forge that he will do again this summer.
He said he loves doing local performances because “these audiences are even more appreciative... They really show up and turn out.”
Event organizer for the auxiliary, Darcy A. Zehr, saw one of Mr. Etienne’s performances at the Strand and said, “it blew my mind.”
After having to pause fundraisers for pandemic precautions, the auxiliary was looking for something different that would give people something fun to do after the two stressful pandemic years while raising money for the next time the Lewis County General Hospital needs them, and Mr. Etienne’s magic seemed perfect to do both, Mrs. Zehr said.
In the past, the group has helped buy a CT scan and digital mammography machine and materials to do targeted soft renovations like “sprucing up” the rehabilitation area.
Tickets for the show can be purchased online in advance for $15 for adults and $10 for those younger than 18. Children younger than 5 can watch for free.
At the door, all tickets will cost $20.
For questions or information about joining the auxiliary, email Mrs. Zehr at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 315-486-7695.