“It is strange how magic can pull you in so deep that you forget the world around you,” said Howard Blackwell as he shred a long thread into several pieces. “But it would be real magic if life were like this.” Then the conjuror rolled the pieces together to unravel the original thread, not broken anymore.

A magician from the hills of East Tennessee, Blackwell began his career at age 14 and has performed since in 19 countries. During a recent show at the Threshold Repertory Theatre, he performed classic magic routines in his own signature style. He often put his assistant in a box that he sawed and pierced with knives and swords, only to reveal that she had vanished, or separated into two parts or stayed inside untouched.

His show would have been incomplete without loud rounds of applause, an excited audience willing to participate and more than a few naughty jokes. It also would have been incomplete without gasps of wonder when he pulled out a dollar note signed by an audience member from a lemon that he cut open, or when the name of a man that a woman had kissed for the first time popped right out of a locked box.

From the very beginning, Blackwell declared himself more daring than the master illusionist Harry Houdini by swallowing more than 20 needles and a roll of thread. Houdini had performed this feat only once, he said, as he spewed the threaded needles from his mouth. The audience watched awestruck.

Sidney Sheldon once said, “There is magic, but you have to be the magician. You have to make the magic happen.” Blackwell made it happened last week during Piccolo Spoleto. And it will happen four more times, at 7:30 p.m. May 31; noon June 6; and noon and 7 p.m. June 7.

Varuni Sinha is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.