Step right up and see the magic of Steve Hyde and Miss Ashlyn Mae

Are you watching closely?

Magic is a mysterious, curious and mesmerizing art with a history that spans many centuries. Whether it be a simple card trick or an elaborate escape, magicians past and modern, from Harry Houdini to David Blaine, have loved and continue to love to enchant their audiences with the sleight of hand and illusions of grandeur.

What makes performing magic so enticing? Many magicians throughout history simply say: it makes the impossible, possible.

Certainly magic has changed over the centuries; no longer do we see the “step right up!” circus-sideshow sensational events of the late 1800s and early 1900s, but rather, more of what one local magician calls a cutthroat world of magic in cities like Las Vegas.

However, although attention spans have shortened and it takes more to thrill 21st-century audiences, it doesn’t stop magicians from pursuing what they love. Local magician Steve Hyde says that “entertainment is what it’s all about” and that “you still have the basic classics, which will never change.”

He sees the positives in technology and social media and said that it expands magical horizons rather than hinders it. When it may have taken a lot more for someone to see or learn magic before, they now can simply go on YouTube and learn or be entertained.

Naturally, however, attention spans have shortened with technology, at times making things difficult.

“Yeah, people have shorter attention spans they’re harder to impress, it makes it difficult; everything’s so fast,” Hyde said.

But I think despite all of that, if you’re a good performer, people will pay attention. People still want to see live entertainment. I think as long as you have ‘it,’ people still want to see.”

And people do continue to see. Hyde, along with his partner Ashlyn Mae, perform all over the area for all types of audiences, from elementary schools to nursing homes.

They even collaborate with Billtown Burlesque, which is where Hyde met Ashlyn. He likes a variety of audiences because it makes it fun.

“Magic is a universal thing,” Hyde said.

Born in 1957, he saw his first magician at a 1963 sideshow circus; Hyde’s first magic performance was in 1973. Since then, he has done magic all over the nation in all types of forms, from a formal stage in front of thousands, to street magic for one in cities like Miami.

Like many magicians, since childhood, Hyde has looked to Houdini as a source of inspiration. Acts that Hyde and Ashlyn Mae perform in shows now, like their escape acts, are inspired by Houdini’s escape acts.

Hyde said the two had an instant chemistry driven by the love of performing and entertaining.

“Some of her magic books were the same ones that I had (we’re) a perfect blend,” Hyde said. He emphasizes that Ashlyn is not an assistant, but a partner, adding that “she’s one of those people that you only meet once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.”

Together Hyde and Ashlyn Mae are experimenting with new types of magic, like mentalism. He said they’re working on a new show called Mindmelt, which encompasses mind reading and psychic entertainment. They’ve been trying out the new show on new audiences, with upcoming shows in the spring. Additionally, they’re working on new escape stunts.

“For 2014, we’re working on some new escape stunts, escapes that revolve around Earth’s elements,” Hyde said.

A buried alive escape, a plastic bag escape, water boarding with a straight jacket and a stunt called “Dante’s Inferno” are among some of the stunts that the two are working on.

As he gets older, he wants to do more, because “life’s too short.”

“The older I get, the more I want to do,” he said, “I can say I’m ‘not a day over 30,’ but 56 is 56. Houdini was in his early 50s when he died. People live longer now, but still, you want do things before time runs out.”

Before “time runs out,” Hyde wants to start giving back.

“I want to take this as far as we can and do as much as we can. I’ve been doing this for so long, that I just want to start giving back,” he said.

He wants to take the magic to the masses and also finish a book that he’s writing. He self-published a book in the 1980s that he wants to expand on and finish, called “A Potpourri of Prestidigitation,” which he said gives down-to-earth advice about getting started in the magic business and other tips and tricks, all outlined from his own experiences.

He also wants to do more charity and benefit shows, and even a Web series; he said his 13-year-old son, who frequently helps out with shows, has been getting into film.

Whatever the venue, digital or not, and audiences large or small, Hyde just wants to continue to entertain through magic.

“Build a stage and they’ll come,” he said.