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Illusionist Dan Kuniak still believes in sense of wonder | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

Illusionist Dan Kuniak still believes in sense of wonder

Rex Rutkoski
| Monday, December 31, 2018 12:03 a.m
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Magician-illusionist Dan Kuniak will perform at the Oaks on Jan. 5.
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Magician-illusionist Dan Kuniak performs at the Oaks Jan. 5.
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Magician-illusionist Dan Kuniak

Dan Kuniak believes there is still room in this super high-tech age for a sense of wonder.

The veteran Pittsburgh magician and illusionist, who is headlining a return performance 7:30 p.m. Jan. 5 at the Oaks Theatre, Oakmont, says his art form still wows all ages as it did in another era.

Despite the sophistication of technology, he says, he does not sense that people have a feeling of “been there, saw that” or “is that all you have?” when it comes to this timeless expression.

“It’s pretty much up to the individual performer to update and adapt the old with the new technology and create a presentation that fits the age and sophistication of the audience,” Kuniak says.

Daring to fool

Some people look at magic as a challenge to “figure out” what they are seeing, he adds, and there are always a few with their arms crossed “daring” you to fool them.

“I have to say that luckily the vast majority of my audiences are there simply to be entertained, laugh and have a good time. Besides, a little magic never hurt anyone,” he says. “Magic creates the great ‘What if?’ possibility and allows audiences to step away, even if for just a little while.”

Joe Wichryk, managing director of the Oaks, loves hosting Kuniak.

“This show is one I’m excited about every time it comes to the theater. Dan Kuniak is not just a magician, he’s a true entertainer,” says Wichryk.

Kuniak hopes his audience experiences an hour of a little mystery and a little fun. “Unlike TV or the internet, it’s live!” he says. Audience participation is one of the highlights.

Great venue for magic

He finds the Oaks a great theater for magic. “It’s not a huge place, and that allows me to do a combination of larger and smaller material rather than one or the other,” he explains.

A longtime musician, Kuniak also incorporates music into his shows.

After graduating in 1981 from Deer Lakes High School, West Deer, he studied two years at the University of Pittsburgh and two at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, obtaining a degree in graphic design. He also has taught part time at the Art Institute.

In 2007, he left WPXI-TV after 23 years as an award-winning graphic designer with the station.

The Frazer Township, Allegheny County, resident now heads his own company which presents motivational and entertainment magic programs throughout the tri-state for businesses, schools and the general public on a variety of topics. He also is certified in hypnosis therapy.

His strengths

“After more than 35 years at this I would say being able to quickly read an audience, adjust, ad-lib and, if necessary, change the show from the planned script is by far my biggest strength,” he says. “Another thing is having a number of great hilarious friends that keep my comedy and wits razor sharp.”

He tries to put his own spin on and present his magic and illusion differently than other performers.

“I have created a few original things over the years that I’ve sold to other magicians,” he says. “While I try to perform and add new things to the various shows it’s not the trick itself, it’s the entertainment value and the audience reaction that’s important. It never ceases to amaze me how simple, inexpensive tricks are often the highlight and most remembered portion of a show.”

Are adults or children easier to impress?

“Kids are always the challenge. No one looks for a solution more than they do,” he replies.

“How much better does it get than making people laugh and forget it all for a few minutes? Every audience is different and nothing beats being part of a live show with lots of people having fun,” he says.

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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