DETROIT – Mario Marchese is Mario the Maker Magician.
Detroiters last saw the New York-based wizard on Local 4 News Today in early 2018 during his winter tour. His performances are a unique, magnificent blend of magic and technology.
“We utilize 3D printing and micro-controllers,” he said.
His colorful, vibrant, entertaining act is all about fun with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“The whole point of our winter tour is to encourage kids to become inventors ... In normal circumstances, we are on the road as a family, touring our theater show that integrates homemade robotics and magic, homeschooling our kids along the way," he said.
But “normal circumstances” have gone away in the COVID-19 era. The coronavirus’s threat has shut down his 2020 touring schedule -- in more ways than one. He believes the coronavirus hit his family hard, including the love of his life.
“My wife, Katie, was sick for a couple of weeks earlier this month. At the time, no tests were available at our doctor, but based on symptoms, they were pretty certain it was COVID-19," he said.
Fortunately, they received ample family support.
“Our amazing community and parents did so much to help us get through it. Grocery drops, food deliveries," said Marchese.
And, now, there’s good news.
“It got a little scary at times, but she has recovered completely, and we are all well,” he said.
That kind of support is what fuels Mario to move forward by helping others as a maker and a magician.
“Now that our household is healthy again, we have been trying to do our part in our community," said Marchese.
That includes using his 3D printers to produce medical equipment.
“We’ve 3D printed face shields and donated face masks to our local community center, for their staff and volunteers who are delivering daily meals to our village’s children who relied on the free and reduced school lunch programs,” he said.
Although his tour has been put on hold, his performances have not.
“We are also trying to maintain a constant virtual presence for our fans and friends, with free virtual entertainment and DIY magic projects on social media … The difference is vast," he said.
Together, with his wife and manager Katie from their home setting north of Manhattan, they are working to maintain a real-time relationship with previous and new audiences.
“In this time when we are all craving connection, we’ve found the livestream formats to be most fulfilling. We’re working a lot through Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube Live. We’ve also done a lot of work through Zoom for private virtual events," he said.
For a man encouraging STEM literacy with his mechanized magical act, switching from in-person performances to video-conference ones has been an education.
“I learned early on that 80 percent of my stage show will not work virtually!” he said.
This includes coping without the immediate feedback from his guffawing and ooh-ing and aww-ing audience.
“I miss the spontaneous moments that happen on stage. I miss the laughter from the crowd,” said Marchese.
Even here, he discovers the silver lining.
“The upside to doing virtual work is that our audience has expanded, and it’s truly a global experience. I’m learning to adapt elements of my stage show to a computer screen! It’s so different from what I’m trained for, but I am learning to use the limitations of the screen to create new magic. That has been really rewarding. The show must go on, and we are adapting!”he said.
So far, the electronic efforts are paying off and giving Mario the Maker Magician feeling fulfilled.
“I feel grateful. I feel so thankful that I have something to give right now. Even if it’s just a small thing. We all have one thing we are great at. I know my life’s purpose is to make kids laugh. Whether I see it on stage or from a computer, the connection is so important to me," he said.
The inspiration from his family’s personal battle with disease inspires Mario the Maker Magician to inspire others. More information can be found about Mario the Maker Magician on Facebook, Instagram and his website.