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BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST

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Puzzle Master/Magician David Kwong has returned to the Geffen Playhouse with his live show THE ENIGMATIST

BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST

Puzzle Master/Magician David Kwong has returned to The Geffen Playhouse with his live show THE ENIGMATIST, already playing has been extended through November 14, 2021. David charms his audience with a variety of mind-boggling puzzles, incredible sight of hand and unbelievable acts of mental telepathy. His virtual show last year INSIDE THE BOX's six-week run sold out in minutes.

Had a chance to flash a few questions to David again after his opening weekend.

Thank you for taking the time for this, our second interview, David!

Last we chatted; you were performing your INSIDE THE BOX online for the Geffen Stayhouse. What did you think of that new experience interacting with your audience via Zoom?
I thoroughly enjoyed performing over Zoom because it connected me to countless people around the world. I had people tuning in from dozens of countries at all hours! Some people even got up at four in the morning to tune in.

BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST Actually, I felt the Zooming method added another level of "How'd he do that?" to your entire show. It's one thing to try to figure out how you did what you did in a theatre sitting twenty-thirty feet away from you, but to figure out your illusions with everyone in their own homes - totally mind-blowing! You're already started previews live at the Geffen. How's it feel to be performing in front of a live audience again after all this time?
Thanks so much! I'm very proud of INSIDE THE BOX. We really tried to take advantage of the format of Zoom and the online ecosystem. I have to tip my cap to my Creative Director Brett Banakis who encouraged me to embrace the aesthetic of the 5x5 Zoom grid. But there's BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST nothing like being back in front of a live audience -- feeling the energy of the room and the sense of togetherness as people try to work out these illusions and puzzles together. There's a communal sense of awe and "A-has!"

Was there any discussion to offer THE ENIGMATIST to both live and Zoomed audiences?
THE ENIGMATIST has always been an in-person show. I am so grateful for how well it did in New York, selling out 125 performances. I'm so pleased to be in front of a live audience once again. There's nothing like eye contact with people, especially when it comes to illusions and mystery. But INSIDE THE BOX proved that you can have meaningful interaction with virtual audiences.

BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST Besides your successful Zooming of INSIDE THE BOX, what else did you do to keep creatively sane during the lockdown? Still solving more New York Times crosswords?
Not just solving (which I do every day!) but writing! I was hard at work, coming up with puzzles for both print and virtual. One thing that kept me busy was being hired by companies for virtual Puzzle Hunts. This involved breaking up groups into teams of five or six over Zoom and giving them an hour to solve puzzles I had created. It was a wonderful way for people to come together and stretch their brains.

Did you learn any new games you wanted to master?
I started solving The New York Times spelling bee with my mother every day. We get on the phone and collaborate, and we don't stop until we hit the Genius level. It's a very important way to start the day!

BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST Do you watch any particular genre of television to inspire you in new ideas for wordplay?
I think what inspires me the most is good storytelling, especially shows that have twists and turns. I'm always getting inspired by new ways to surprise an audience. So when I see something clever, I think: "How can I turn this into a magic trick or a puzzle with a surprise ending?"

Greg Berlanti and Robbie Rodgers presented you in THE ENIGMATIST earlier at the High Line Hotel in New York in a sold-out run of 125 shows in 2019. Have you tweaked or added any of your show's illusions for this Geffen run?
Geffen Playhouse has certainly elevated the show! The set and the lighting are so beautiful. And it's so nice to be in a theater where I can make use of trapdoors on the stage (wink, wink).

BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST How regularly do you practice your illusions?
I'm so lucky that my job is fun. I get a kick out of performing magic for my friends and strangers, so I'm always refining my chops. And my puzzles need to be tested as well! I've often taken to Twitter and asked, "Who wants to test a puzzle for me?" The response is usually overwhelming.

You must have a go-to script when dealing with the uncertainties of a live audience. What was the most unexpected audience interaction you had that with your fast thinking managed to turn around as if it were scripted?
Oh, I've encountered *everything*. When someone tries to mess with me, I turn it around on them. Also, one of the big principles of magic is "always take credit for coincidences." (I love teaching people about the underlying principles of magic.) So, to answer your question, the best kind of unexpected audience interaction is when someone yells out, "Make the 3 of Diamonds appear!" And I just happen to have that single card already in my pocket. Embrace the uncanny coincidence and go with it!

BWW Interview: Mind-Blowing David Kwong's Truly An ENIGMATIST What's in the near future for David Kwong?
I expect THE ENIGMATIST will travel to another city in the near future. I'm looking forward to sharing that with as many audiences as possible. I'm also writing my next show, which will further feature my love for magic and puzzles. But that's still a ways off. In the meantime, I will continue to walk around with a 3 of Diamonds in my pocket.

Thank you again, David! It was so fun trying to figure out your illusions up close and in person at the Geffen.

For tickets to the live performances of THE ENIGMATIST through November 14, 2021; log onto www.geffenplayhouse.org

To read my previous interview with David, click here.


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