Ottawa

The man who fooled Houdini profiled on Ottawa stage

Known as the only man to ever fool Houdini, Ottawa-born magician Dai Vernon is the subject of a new play opening in Ottawa.
Performers act out a scene in The Shadow Cutter. (CBC)

Known as the only man to ever fool Houdini, Ottawa-born magician Dai Vernon is the subject of a new play opening in Ottawa.

Written by Ottawa playwright Pierre Brault, The Shadow Cutter tells the story of Vernon, a gifted sleight-of-hand expert, and the secretive world of magicians in the 20th century. 

Dai Vernon — who was born in Centretown in the 1890’s — is known as a legend among illusionists, said Brault.

Already known as The Professor for his encyclopedic knowledge of card tricks, Vernon earned another moniker in 1919 as The Man who Fooled Houdini when he performed a card trick the famous escapist was unable to unravel, despite seeing it performed seven times.

"The magicians discovered (Vernon) had this incredible talent for close-up work with coins, cups, balls, things like that," said Brault.

"He approached it saying, ‘I’m simply doing a trick here. You can’t figure out how it’s done," he added.

The play is not so much a biography of the performer as a peek into the world of magic.

"I was more interested in the idea of secrets and what secrets were to them," said Brault. "It’s almost a form of currency. They hold onto secrets. They trade secrets. And this is a world that really fascinated me."

The Shadow Cutter runs from March 8th through March 27th at the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre at 1233 Wellington Street West.

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