Youth, magic and mystery

. August 13, 2012.
Eli-and-Emma-Portala-Magic

In this month’s Tween The Lines we’re featuring successful working teen Eli Portala. He has magic in his genes — the 14-year-old Toledoan is the son of veteran magician Andrew Martin, and he’s built up an impressive resume of his own. He’s just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy with his mother, where he appeared on the TV show La Grande Magia (The Illusionist), performing his own dazzling magic act.

You’ve just returned from your triumphant appearance on Italian TV. How did you get such a great opportunity? 

They [the producers] saw me in Las Vegas. I was doing the World Magic Seminar. I came in second there, and they liked me. They wanted me on their show, so they flew me out. I was shocked! To have somebody not even in your own country want you to perform — and they paid for EVERYTHING. That was really cool. 

Was there some culture shock for you, as a Toledoan abroad? Did you know any of the language? 

I learned a little. “Grazie” means “thank you!” Trying to communicate got a little frustrating sometimes, but I got through it. It was fun!

You’ve lived almost your whole life as a magician. When did that start? 

I’ve been doing it since I was 18 months old. My father got me started — he’s been doing it for, like, 40 years. He’s the best. But performing in public? When I was 6 years old, they wanted me to do a show at KinderCare. My mom said, “he’s only six years old! He doesn’t HAVE a show!” But word must have gotten around. I was very popular among the pre-schoolers. 

What was your first trick?

Making food disappear! Making it reappear was a little less impressive…

Do you have a trademark, as a performer? 

Well, I’ve got my personality! I just have fun, and enjoy what I do. As far as tricks, I like doing old stuff, stuff that’s been around for a long time and been put away in a dark closet. It’s cool to keep the old magic alive. I do Houdini’s “Metamorphosis.” You have two people and a crate. One person gets inside and you lock it up. The other person gets on top. A curtain goes up and they switch places, instantaneously. That’s probably the oldest trick I do. 

You’ve performed as a family for years. Any funny stories from the road? 

A few years ago, we got invited to do America’s Got Talent. We were in this big ballroom and our rabbit got away and ran between the wall and a divider. These dividers were huge — we had to call maintenance to move them. We slowed down the production a bit! The whole crew had to come down to get this furry little rabbit. 

What would you do with your life if you weren’t doing magic? 

Maybe acting? But who knows? I might be playing baseball.