David Caserta

By Sara Hodon

Building a career as a magician takes a little more work than a wave of the wand or pulling success out of a hat, as David Caserta can tell you. Caserta, the Nazareth resident who has been wowing audiences with his “Haunted Illusions” show, says it’s a challenge to continue to outdo himself, but it’s one that he welcomes. “It’s still very rewarding. I look forward to creating new stuff. It’s a different kind of reward than when I first started, but I’m still as excited about it as when I first started,” he says.

The world of magic and illusion first captivated Caserta as a child when his parents bought him a magic kit. “What appealed to me was the ability to take a simple trick and show it to an adult,” he says. “At that age, you think adults know all of the answers, and I had a knowledge that they didn’t understand. My interest was sparked from there.” Caserta asked for newer and better tricks every year, and eventually started performing shows in his parents’ living room. He said it was the feeling of wonderment he created in his audiences – the sense of “How’d he do that?” – that he enjoyed the most. Soon he was trying his latest tricks out on his friends at school. “One of the very first ones I learned was making a quarter disappear,” he says. “Then I’d go to school and my friends found out that I could do it, so I would show them. That’s how I ended up getting some lunch money for the day,” he laughs. “It was pretty profitable back then.”

Caserta learned what he could from books and do-it-yourself magic kits but wanted to take his schooling a step further. He started taking lessons when he was 12 years old, and studied for two years with veteran performer, magician Francis Davis, at Magic World, Davis’ magic shop in Allentown. “I called all of the magicians in the area to see if anyone gave lessons. The kits don’t give you any of the secrets that ‘real’ magicians learned,” Caserta says.  During his training with Davis, Caserta performed his biggest show to date – a Christmas program at his elementary school. “There were about 600 to 700 people in the gym. I’d only been taking lessons for a few months, so my teacher helped me put together a show,” he says. His training was cut short when Davis closed his shop. “Looking back, that was actually a blessing in disguise. It forced me to be creative and learn things on my own rather than being spoon-fed.  It was good training ground to learn the basics and apply them to more advanced stuff,” Caserta says.

After high school, the young magician’s future was uncertain. “I didn’t really know what to do. There’s no college major in magic,” he says. Fellow magicians advised him to take a variety of courses in order to be a well-rounded performer and understand different aspects of the entertainment business. Caserta attended Muhlenberg College and earned a Bachelor’s degree in theater. There he learned how to not just stand onstage doing magic tricks, but to put together a real performance, complete with lights, sound and some comic relief.

Today, Caserta is best known for his “Haunted Illusions” show, which he performs throughout the country each fall. Spring is spent performing smaller corporate gigs, honing the existing act and lining up bookings for the next touring season. Caserta developed the show after performing at a theme park in Arizona, and really liked the idea of developing an act around a theme. “I got home and realized there was a niche. There aren’t many magic shows out there with a Halloween theme,” he says. “Haunted Illusions” is, in part, a bit of a tribute to legendary escape artist Harry Houdini, who influenced generations of magicians and died on Halloween in 1926.

Caserta says that he and his team may spend years developing new illusions to add to their repertoire. “It does vary. With one in particular, I walk through a piece of steel and have audience members come up and examine the piece of steel that was based on a trick of Houdini’s where he walked through a brick wall. We worked on that for about three or four years until we came up with a convincing way to do it,” he says. The show’s opening illusion took six to seven years to develop, and one illusion, where an actual ghost flies around the audience, took about a year to perfect. Caserta says that once you invest in an illusion, there’s really no turning back. “There’s a lot of money in it,” he says. “You really have to do your research ahead of time.”

Caserta has achieved a level of success the young magician who performed for his parents in their living room could never have imagined.  Yet today he still gets a rush from hearing his audiences’ reactions. “I spend so much time putting the right lighting in the show, choosing the right music for an illusion…it’s a lot of work to make one illusion right. I’m never sure how it’ll go over until I hear the audience react.” He’s currently working on a few TV projects, and says he’s open to new opportunities. His advice to aspiring magicians: “Keep working hard and finding original stuff, and it’ll pay off in the end.”

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