Magic To Do: Theatre [502] Launches Original Play Series Based on Vintage Magician Posters

Theatre [502] continues to explore magic and history with a new series of original plays that launches this week.

Last season, Theatre [502] completed an ambitious, year-long serial play project. Written by Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds, “The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn” unfolded the interlaced histories of legendary magician Harry Houdini and fictional (but no less legendary) Louisville magician Ludlow Quinn, as their respective greatest tricks ended up ensnaring Louisville teen Bonnie Burke, the unwitting bearer of a magical dynastic legacy.

They performed the play at Baron’s Theatre, the former Squirrely’s Tea Room that Louisville magician Baron LaValle built for his own mid-century magic act, in ten-minute increments on the first Friday of every month that ran during the city’s downtown trolley hops.

This season, Grisanti and Moulds (who just won a prestigious Jerome Fellowship for emerging playwrights from the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis) have joined Theatre [502] as official playwrights-in-residence. Their new project, which launches tomorrow, isn’t serialized, but it’s still drawing inspiration from Baron’s Theatre – now from the rare, vintage magician advertisement lithographs that line the walls.

“Ludlow Quinn Presents” is a new series of eleven original, stand-alone short plays written by local playwrights. Each play focuses on a single magician, pulled from the walls and the halls of history, and brought to life.

“We’re picking one magician at a time and having five different playwrights tell the story in a house style,” said co-artistic director Gil Reyes in a recent interview.

The first installment, written by Moulds, is “The Man That Mystified Hermann,” and it revolves around a fictionalized episode in magician Howard Thurston’s life.

“Steve kind of turns it on its ear and makes it a mystical point of – what if? What is the importance of this moment, and what if it hadn’t happened, what if it did?” Reyes said. “So it’s got a little Twilight Zone feel to it, which is one of the directions we’re heading with the Ludlow Quinn Presents series this year.”

“The Man That Mystified Hermann” features actors Abigail Bailey Maupin, Gregory Maupin and Conner Davis. The show runs for three free performances Friday evening (7, 8 and 9 p.m.) at Baron’s Theatre in Whiskey Row Lofts.

Unlike last year’s “The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn,” these short plays will each stand alone. Louisville playwrights Eli Keel, Brian Walker and Rachel White will also write for the series. A new play will debut every First Friday (except May) for the next year. 

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