Los Angeles Times
By: Mark Miller
A man saws his wife in half, squashes her, makes her float, turns her into an octopus and then causes her to disappear- completely. He does this nearly every day, in front of numerous witnesses. While some might mistakenly refer to Steve Spill’s unusual behavior as spousal abuse, both Spill and his wife, Bozena Wrobel, more accurately term it “magic.” They are, after all, the owners, operators, and stars of the 7-year-old Magicopolis complex in Santa Monica, where they stage live magic shows every weekend in their 150-seat Abracadabra Theater.
A popular stop for families – the City Search website this summer named Magicopolis the No. 1 destination for parents with bored kids – the enterprise has outlived other shows such as Wizardz in Universal City and Caesars Magical Empire in Las Vegas.
“I think it’s because we made a decision early on to cater to families,” Spill says. “And that has really paid off.”
One profit maker has been the birthday party – Magicopolis has hosted nearly 4,000 of them since opening, with each featuring a class, pizza, cake and tickets to the show. The party favor is a bag of tricks taught in the class.
Extending that idea, Spill and Worbel are developing a Magic Birthday Party in a Box that includes an instructional DVD, self-working props for a show the birthday child and his or her folks can perform for guests, party favor bags of tricks and magical invitations.
Their lives as merchandisers represent quite an evolution for a couple who came to their unique form of entertainment through diverse backgrounds. During his 20-year career as a performing musician, Spill has been a consultant on magic for theater, film and television. A Polish-born actress, Worbel has numerous stage, screen and TV credits.
Although they founded Magicopolis, neither Spill nor Worbel had any business experience when they embarked on the venture. At the outset their own performing skills took a back seat to producing shows written and performed by other magicians, including Penn & Teller on opening night.
But for the last two years, Spill and Wrobel have not only operated the business, they have also written and starred in their own continuing show, “Escape Reality.” The show has all the classic illusions – floating, appearing vanishing, squishing, sawing, mind reading, predictions, sleight of hand with small objects, and a spine-tingling dangerous escape.
What makes the show uniquely theirs is how they use these tricks and stunts as vehicles of expression. Woven throughout are touching autobiographical moments, philosophical observations, sketch comedy, drama, romance, stand-up comedy and audience participation.
Of course, they’re never far from the reality of being businesspeople.
“We’re the ones who have to get out of bed in the middle of the night because the alarms go off, or the roof is leaking, or the plumbing is spraying raw sewage and needs to be cleaned up this second or everything will be lost,” Spill says.
Adds Wrobel: “You must be both an extravagant artist and a penny-pinching caretaker. It isn’t easy, it isn’t always fun, but the show and this theater are like our happy child.”
The “happy child” includes Magicopolis’ small theater, plus a 40-seat Hocus Pocus Room for close-up magic shows, and a magic shop offering all skill levels of tricks, for kids and adults.
Most recently, the couple, together with their Magicopolis brand, have been optioned as a reality TV series. The show’s premise is to follow some of the couple’s alarming missteps in business, their obsession with making art out of magic tricks, and the effects of all this on their personal relationship. In one potential story, Steven Spielberg is in the Magicopolis audience when Wrobel decides to audition for him with a monologue from “Sophie’s Choice,” while floating in midair. Now that’s a long way from pulling a rabbit out of a hat.