One-half of the bill for Conjuring Cubans is Minneapolis-based Derek Hughes, who like Penn and Teller and a handful of the better magicians combines magic with performance art. But unlike Penn and Teller, Hughes doesn't simply offer a hip diversion to savvy audiences sick to death of tuxedoed magicians and showgirl "assistants." Though he's a polished prestidigitator, his magic definitely takes a backseat to his beautiful, touching, semiautobiographical stories. Recounting a relationship gone sour, Hughes signifies dozens of regrets by swallowing a handful of needles one at a time--one for each regret--and several feet of thread. Moments later he pulls the thread from his mouth, and dangling from it like pearls on a string are a dozen or so needles, a glistening emblem of both healing and the creative process, the transformation of pain into artifact. Hughes uses the old newspaper trick--tearing paper into tiny pieces, then magically reintegrating it-- as the background for a moving story of a friend who died young: the restored paper has a bittersweet double meaning, illustrating both the cliche that life goes on and the fact that Hughes can never restore his friend to life. He performs with Antonio Sacre at Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark, 773-871-1212. Opens Saturday, January 4, 8 PM. Through January 11: Sunday-Monday and Thursday-Saturday, 8 PM.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Derek Hughes by Gesk.