Magic in Braun Ct.
Kip Barry's many hats
by Sally Mitani
Magic has arrived in Ann Arbor. We're home to just about every other performing art--even a highly respected comedy club--but magic doesn't happen all that much around here.
Kip Barry says, with an air of "ta-da!" befitting a magician, that he "graduated from the Chavez College of Manual Dexterity and Prestidigitation" in Colon (south of Kalamazoo), "the magic capital of the world." At the age of nine, he performed at Hollywood's famous Magic Castle. He's toured the world on cruise ships. Now he's opened the eponymous Kip Barry's Tricks and Treats Performing Arts Center in Braun Court. Because Ann Arbor is so lacking in magic, he'll be wearing--or pulling rabbits out of--many hats: teacher, impresario, performer, and merchandiser. In early December the place looked a little bare: a few shelves of merchandise and a stage under construction in the corner for classes and magic shows. "We'll also be doing poetry readings, jazz music, and theater," he says.
Magic is such a rare skill these days that most people don't even know whether to think of it as a children's sport, an adult one, or a very adult one. "I don't work blue," he's quick to say. "All my shows are family friendly. Well..." He hesitates as he remembers that his inaugural show on New Year's Eve is a teeny bit smutty, with a bit involving a carrot floating around his lap.
Certainly the classes and workshops he envisions will be kid friendly. He touts magic as one of the best educational tools: "Magic makes you think four, five, six steps down the road. And it's good for self-esteem. There are easy magic tricks you can learn in a few minutes, and what else can you learn in a few minutes that will get you a round of applause?" During the course of the interview, cellphones floated and coins disappeared, and, as predicted, applause was generated.
Barry has been in and out of Ann Arbor for years. He's had a store
within a store at Elmo's and a kiosk at Briarwood, but more recently he was living in Naples, Florida, where he ran into some trouble. "I'm the Robert Downey, Jr. of magic," he says, pointing out that he even looks like the actor. "I'm in recovery. All of my problems are alcohol related. Part of recovery is making amends and taking care of the past." This shop is a fresh start brought about by his friends Martin Contreras and Keith Orr, who own the building and "know everything."
The shop sells magic paraphernalia--some of which require no skill at all beyond the ability to read the directions--as well as jokes and gags like "remote control whoopee cushions, cigarette loads, creepy-crawly things. We can turn everybody into a magician."
Kip Barry's Tricks and Treats Performing Arts Center, 325 Braun Court, 985-5184. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. (shop also open during shows).
[Originally published in January, 2013.]