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Magic man to conjure support for Guatemala

Actor-turned-magician Joshua Lozoff will soon offer Triangle audiences a chance to see some real mind-benders at Durham's Manbites Dog Theater on March 16.

About a decade ago, Lozoff forsook a budding career in acting to find a more suitable occupation. Ironically, it wasn't long after doing so that he fell under magic's spell while volunteering in Bolivia.

"I had just decided to quit the business and totally give up performing and do something a little more simple with my life," Lozoff said.

As an actor, Lozoff had played the recurring role of Gino Tortelli on the highly successful sitcom Cheers and was also featured in a bit role as Logan in 1995's Clueless.

Deciding that acting was no longer fulfilling for him, Lozoff then traveled to Latin and South America as a volunteer for charity organizations. It was during this time that he realized what he wanted to do.

"One night about ten years ago in Bolivia, I came across a magician performing in the streets and was really affected by what I saw," the entertainer said.

Even though he thought he had given up performing entirely, Lozoff discovered he still felt attracted to the stage and to interacting with audiences, an attraction which still drives him today.

Besides being drawn in by the performance of that magician, Lozoff also became very emotionally connected to the impoverished children he encountered during his time volunteering. After learning about Safe Passage, an organization that cares for the children working in the Guatemala City dump, Lozoff decided to use his own magic performances as a venue to raise funds for the organization.

"These moments of joy and wonder are just such a beautiful thing to share with people," Lozoff said. "Ninety percent of magic is about making a connection with people."

So how does one go about becoming a magician complete with his own following? Having a family friend in the business can help. Lozoff contacted an old friend of his parents to help him get started. Now he is an accomplished performer with his own style.

"I do a lot of different types of magic," Lozoff said. "Some of it's very traditional, in terms of things with cards and coins and some is more cutting-edge."

Whatever he does, it works. Last year when Lozoff performed at Manbites, the shows sold out before they opened. It was his first such show, as normally Lozoff makes his living as a more intimate magician. He amazes people five and six at a time at large parties or other private occasions. Also included in this regular schedule is a weekly gig at the Mellow Mushroom in at Durham's American Tobacco Campus.

"We are very thrilled to have him here," Managing Director Edward Hunt said. "He's such an amazing performer."

Advertising presents no problem for these shows. There are popular clips of him online, and he has strong following in North Carolina.

"Josh sells himself," Hunt said. "It makes our job really easy."

According to Lozoff, magic is enjoying a strong resurgence in popularity through such celebrities as Criss Angel and David Blaine. Magicians experience cyclces of ups and downs through generations.

"It's like Houdini," Lozoff said. "He did things a common man could appreciate."

For Lozoff, it is in part, about returning home. Though he moved back out to Los Angeles for a time to receive training in magic and he has dazzled audiences as far away as Japan, Lozoff prefers the audiences here. He was not born in North Carolina but he grew up here from before his first birthday through high school, at which point he departed for L.A.

"There's nothing I like more than performing in Durham," Lozoff said. "I feel very comfortable here."

An Evening of Magic with Joshua Lozoff: A Benefit for Safe Passages will take place at the Manbites Dog Theater March 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $25 each.


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