Sleight of hand magician opens new performance space

The grand opening of the Stuttgart Theatre Center’s Studio on Sept. 23 and 24 was magical, quite literally, with Ted “Merlin” Barlock performing seemingly impossible illusions in the former German Cantina above the Kelley Theatre.

The intimate performance space, with seating for 88 people, was the perfect venue for Barlock’s brand of magic: close-up magic using cards and coins, and parlor magic, featuring small tabletop illusions. Barlock, a lead information operations planner for AFRICOM, has been a practicing magician for over 30 years.

At 12, his parents took the family to Disneyland. “I bought my first magic kit at Merlin’s Magic Shop and I’ve been fascinated with magic ever since,” Barlock said.

Retired from the Air Force, Barlock has performed for military crowds in Germany, England, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He also performed for two years on weekends at the Dragoon Saloon in Tombstone, Az.

“I love sharing what I believe to be something special with the audience. I love seeing how they react … the looks of astonishment, the giggles when they see something disappear,” Barlock said.

His “Theatre of Imagination” show, a genteel demonstration of sleight-of-hand combined with poetry and theater, took a rapt audience on a journey through the Wild West and Victorian eras, using cards, coins, ropes and rings.

   While the show lasted approximately 60 minutes, it was the result of years of practice.

“There’s no shortcut when it comes to cards. It’s working the hands and muscles … learning to manipulate the cards,” said Barlock, as he effortlessly demonstrated his ability to triple cut a deck of cards with one hand and riffle shuffle a deck of cards with either hand.

Barlock, a member of the Academy of Magical Arts, the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians, does not perform large scale illusions, such as levitating, death defying escapes or what is known as shock magic.

 “It would be impractical,” he said of the props required for such illusions.  

Besides, he added, “I want the magic to be beautiful … a pleasant experience. I don’t need to put needles through my body … call me old fashioned.”

Stuttgart Theatre Center’s next production, “Dracula,” runs from Oct. 14 to Oct. 31 in the Kelley Theatre. For more information, visit