Daniel Quintana’s obsession with carnivals began at age 8 when a traveling show pulled into his Pennsylvania hometown.
Quintana, who had already begun his career as a performer, played the games and wandered the encampment. Eventually, he was drawn to the carnival’s side show tent, which promised a view of a headless woman.
But his mom wouldn’t let him go inside. Decades later, Quintana still thinks of the carnival. He’s tried unsuccessfully to find a record of it in the local papers of the area. And now, he’s using the moment as inspiration for one of his magic acts, which he is set to perform in Casper later this month.
“It mysteriously disappeared as soon as it appeared,” Quintana said. “What was behind the curtain? I never got to see it. I just kind of recreated it in my mind and here’s the show.”
Quintana started performing at age 7 in a musical on a church’s gymnasium stage in Trainer, Pennsylvania. An uncle began his interest in magic at age 5 by showing him a trick that made a stuffed animal “disappear.” He then found his way to the magic section of his elementary school school library and learned secrets from the books there. While growing up in Delaware, he recalls a magic club in a smoky lodge in the mid-90s where the older magicians would teach the younger generations.
After stints performing across the country, Quintana moved to Casper in 2014 after marrying his wife, who is a Wyoming native. Quintana made a name for himself in Casper by playing several leads on stage at Casper College, where he graduated with his theater degree last year. Now he’s focusing on his one-man magic act while also working as a substitute teacher with the Natrona County School District.
Quintana now blends magic and theatrics as Byron Grey, “with trickery, mystery, and all the Grey areas in between,” as his next show Jan. 16 at Backwards Distilling Company is billed. His performances include magic tricks, escapes, illusions with audience participation and a little mind reading.
His upcoming performance is one of his acts called “StrangeCarnival,” which he created in 2013 and refined over the years, he said. His upcoming show at Backwards Distillery includes “a little danger, a little goofiness,” he said.
“It’s like a one-man side show with some interactive, bizarre carnival games,” he said. “We’re just really excited because it’s at Backwards Distilling, which has that circus, grunge carnival atmosphere that lends perfectly to the act.”
He started studying magic formally after meeting his mentor, Jeff McBride, at Denny & Lee Magic Shop in Baltimore, Maryland. He then moved to Las Vegas in 2005 to train at the McBride Magic and Mystery School, which his teacher calls “Hogwarts in America.” He’s continued to study the art sporadically over the years, through Skype sessions and occasional visits to Las Vegas, Quintana said.
He’s performed on both American coasts during his 25 years in emceeing, dramatic arts, comedy, magic, TV, film and opera, according to his website. His resume includes several Las Vegas casinos as well as Bechstein Hall, Merkin Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Quintana met his Wyoming-native wife in a Las Vegas gondolier training class at the Venetian Casino. For a few years, he sang and spoke in an Italian accent as gondolier. Rather than giving the same performance all the time, he’d read his audience to find out what they were interested in and tailor the show for them, he said. It’s a skill he uses for his performances today.
Since moving to Casper, he’s helped raise funds for Stage III Community Theatre and Bird Cage Theatrics in Newcastle with his one-man shows, according to his website.
Along with his other work, Quintana is considering a permanent show at a venue or starting a comedy club with guests from around the region, he said. The performer also plans several trips this year, including to Las Vegas, New York City and Salt Lake City, where he’ll attend this week’s Salt Lake Magic Jam. He hopes to go to Cuba in November for a world magic summit.
He’s decided to focus on magic full time rather than a career in theater, he said. He enjoys the creative control and direct interaction.
“I just really love giving people the experience of wonder in a rather mundane world,” Quintana said.