Posted 5 years ago
Iasia: Vanished in the Theatre's Dome
By Chris Berry
In 1929 magician Howard Thurston added an illusion to his show which astonished the audience at each performance. It was an illusion so effective that it was almost "too good to believe."
Late in the program the audience would see a small oriental pagoda rolled onto the apron of the stage. the skeleton cabinet was constructed with virtually no sides, just four pillars holding the roof in place. An assistant known as Princess Iasia would enter the cabinet which was quickly hoisted high over the audience. Once it reached the top of the theatre. a curtain dropped covering the cabinet and hiding the assistant. At that moment Thurston would shout "Iasia are you there?" The assistant in the cabinet would reach through the curtain and wave a handkerchief. At that point Thurston would fire a gun and the curtain would drop as the bottom of the cage would swing open. The pagoda was empty, visible from above and below.
Author Walter Gibson recounted that after the illusion was added to the show in 1929 it didn't quite produce the response that Thurston had expected. Instead of thunderous applause people were so astonished from what they had seen that they were essentially silent, unable to comprehend what had just happened before their eyes. One night Thurston made an offhand comment, he said something like, "every night I stand here and wonder myself just where did she go?" The line broke the ice and prompted laughter from the audience and would be followed each night by a tremendous ovation.
This featured attraction was one of several in the late 1920s and early 1930s for which Thurston commissioned the Otis Litho Co of Cleveland, Ohio to execute special posters. The same basic artwork was used for lithographs that were produced as half sheet panels, one sheet uprights, and as a three-sheet. As with most magic posters of this era, these images in their original form are quite scarce and highly collectible.