When Scott Silven was 15 years old, he saw an advertisement for a hypnosis course in Milan. Telling his mother he was going on a school trip, he hopped a bus from his hometown of Glasgow, Scotland to London. Then from London to Paris, then on to Milan, where he enrolled to learn the art of mind control.
“Before that I was doing cards and coins,” says the magician, “but then I realized there was something so powerful about using people’s memories to create illusions.” That course became his North Star, the point at which he began to develop his skills as both a mentalist and an illusionist. Throw in a little performance art flair and some storytelling, delivered with his Scottish Lowlands dialect, and you’ve got an unforgettable evening of entertainment.
Silven is currently enchanting audiences six nights a week in a return engagement of At the Illusionist’s Table at The McKittrick Hotel. Guests, no more than 30 at each performance, gather around one long table at the hotel’s rooftop Alpine restaurant, The Hideout at Gallow Green, for an intimate evening of illusion, a three-course meal (crafted by Executive Chef Pascal Le Seac’h), and a whiskey tasting.
Silven began developing the show in 2013. The show debuted at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and made its New York premiere in 2018 in The Club Car at The McKittrick Hotel. Sellout engagements have resulted in multiple returns to both the Fringe and the McKittrick in between runs of Silven’s larger stage show Wonders, which played the Sydney Opera House last year and will go to The Kennedy Center in April.
Silven grew up in a tight-knit community in Glasgow, and his move to the vast metropolis of New York City has inspired a theme of connection that runs through his work. In Wonders, Silven brings a large audience close together through his storytelling and illusions. Silven's work has become much more personal and bespoke in the small room of strangers during At the Illusionist’s Table. “I think as soon as you look someone in the eye and you share a joke or a conversation, amazing things can happen,” he says.
Silven invited Playbill to attend an evening At the Illusionist’s Table and has allowed us to invite you along, as well. And although we can’t share the whiskey, we can at least share a few of the laughs and a little of the magic that Silven creates around the table. “The real hope is that everyone comes together by the end of the evening,” he says. “They’re coming in as strangers, and they leave as friends.”
At the Illusionist's Table runs through April 2. Watch the video above to get a taste of Silven's tricks.