Carnival Of Illusion - Magic, Mystery & Ooh La La
Carnival of Illusion opens in Scottsdale
Roland Sarlot and Susan Eyed put on a nostalgic magic show at ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale.

Act fetes old-school magic

by Kerry Lengel
The Republic|

Don't expect any "Criss Angel Mindfreak" shocks at "Carnival of Illusion," the magic act that made its debut at ASU Kerr Cultural Center last weekend. The wife-and-husband team of Susan Eyed and Roland Sarlot are strictly old school.

Think red velvet and gypsy jazz in a show subtitled "Around the World in 80 minutes."

"We love that old world road show (feel)," Eyed says. "We love going back to the silver screen. We love Buster Keaton and Mae West. We love the nostalgia for that time period."

Eyed hails from the Midwest-- "the land of snow shovels," as she puts it-- while Sarlot grew up in sunny Southern California. They met at a Tucson art gallery, trading jokes about an $18,000 piece made out of shag carpet, and discovered they had a mutual love for prestidigitation, even though neither had performed before.

"We just started doing shows," says Sarlot who gave up a career as an optical engineer, designing astronomical instruments and cameras, to pursue his dream.

"We did every gig we could do. Hospitals, festivals, at the fair with all the dirt and the Ferris wheel behind you and the Clydesdale horses. Horrible gigs, but they were great because we learned how to get the audience to watch us. That's how we learned."

Over the past decade and a half, the couple have built a successful business performing in intimate settings, from corporate engagements to Vegas shingdigs. Their current show is in its fifth season in Tucson and after two years of performance at the Arizona Biltmore, it's at the Kerr on selected Saturdays through May.

The act features classic sleight-of-hand tricks using cards and handkerchiefs and throwing knives as well as a levitation act. There's some audience participation, including a "stump the magicians" segment that tests attendees' ability to draw their sweetheart's face on a dry-erase board. All of this is delivered with a healthy does of humor that includes a cameo by the couple's shaggy dog, a rescue mutt named Harriette Houdini.

"We know magic is one of the lowest of the cheesy arts," Sarlot says. "We're a little bit above mime, a step above a juggler, I'm not quite sure. Marionettes are down there, too. We know that."

"But by the same token, the metaphors in magic are extremely powerful. All people relate to cutting and restoring, bringing something back from the dead. Not that people know that when they're seeing it, but underneath they feel it."

Eyed adds "It is something primordial. It is calling us subconsciously back to that sense of wonder. ...It allows (the viewer) to feel like a kid again."

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-4896