So you want my arts job: Illusionist

From world-renowned dancer to grand illusionist, Anthony Street talks to ArtsHub about his career in stagecraft.
So You Want My Arts Job, Illusionist Anthony Street. Dance.

Anthony Street grew up in regional Victoria in Australia, and was surrounded by motorbikes and racing cars. But the stage beckoned, even at six. He became involved in gymnastics and eventually became state champion for floor routines. It was around this time that he attended a local carnival, and found a parallel love with magic – getting his first magic set at eight.

While his dance career started with secret lessons at his grandmother’s dance school, at the same time as he was playing footy, it led him to joining The Australian Irish Dance Company (AIDC) in 2000, and eventually took him around the world. Most significantly he performed with the Dublin-based company Dance of Desire, and Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.

His next dream, however, was his biggest. In November 2011, he formed his own production company , and produced and staged the dance and illusion show Celtic Illusion, followed by Eclipse. The latest, Spellbound, blending breath-taking illusions and theatrical flair, is currently on tour.

‘This show is a culmination of years of dedication and passion for the art of illusion,’ says Street. ‘I wanted to create an experience that transcends the ordinary and takes the audience on a mesmerising adventure.’

Today, Street has earned the title “Grand Illusionist” and has been described as ‘one of the hottest magic acts in Australia’. Here’s his advice on getting there.

How would you describe what you do to a non-arts friend?

Most people think I just perform card tricks and Irish dancing. I do both of those things, but there is so much more to this job. It’s a huge enterprise now!

I am producing new and original shows, evolving my current productions and employing a team of many very talented and highly-skilled people to make magic happen for audiences around the world. 

What qualifications do you need for this job?

No formal qualifications are necessary, but performance experience in live theatre is a must! You have to know how to anticipate any potential issues and how to troubleshoot them quickly.   

How did you get your start in this career?

After training as a competitive gymnast and Irish dancer, I auditioned and received my first contract as a professional dancer in a show in Germany. From there I went on to perform the leading role in Lord of the Dance, touring the world for 10 years.

I returned home to create my own show, Celtic Illusion, which was mostly choreographed on my parents’ deck! After years of hard work, perseverance and burning the candle at both ends, I now have multiple successful shows out on the road simultaneously. 

How collaborative is this job?

As they say, “it takes a village”. There are many different elements that need to come together seamlessly to make something special happen for the audience. My team has so many incredible individuals working together in music, choreography, props building, lighting, marketing, advertising, merchandise, costuming, venues and theatres, as technical crew, drivers, performers and graphic artists, just to name a few! All are integral parts of the shows.

Magician dressed in black standing theatrically on stage with blue curtains. Anthony Street.
Illusionist Anthony Street, and his new production ‘Spellbound’. Photo: Supplied.

What’s an average week like?

No two days are the same! One day I’ll be doing prop maintenance, the next I’ll be meeting with media buyers for TV commercials. Another day and we’ll be loading gear and props into the truck and travelling to do a live show, then back to meet with my Musical Director to preview new tracks for the show. It’s full on and different all the time, and keeps me on my toes! 

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That it’s all glitz and glamour on the stage and signing autographs for the adoring fans. That is a very small part of the job, but by far the most rewarding.

Behind the scenes, there is a huge amount of work that goes into this for just one performance and then even more work by an army people to have multiple shows touring throughout the year. The audience only sees the end product of all that hard work.

How competitive is this job?

This industry is always competitive and a gamble; you are never guaranteed sell-out shows everywhere. There are so many factors to consider: it is school holidays, what other shows/events are happening at the same time, cost of living going up, what kind of marketing and advertising you are doing etc.

Sometimes you can’t go up against those factors and win. Sometimes you do – regardless of sales, I want to provide quality entertainment for our audiences to enjoy. 

In an interview for your job, what skills or qualities would you be looking for?

Personality, a strong work ethic, initiative and they must have the X factor!  

What’s changing in your professional area today? 

Theatre, just like our society, is constantly changing and evolving. To stay current and interesting you have to continually think outside the box with bigger ideas! 

Read: So you want my arts job: Time-Based Art Conservator

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you in this job?

When you work in live theatre, you really need to be ready for anything – there have definitely been some crazy stories over the years. 

In the middle of a show years ago, the theatre’s fire alarm system was set off by the haze/smoke machine, which automatically called the fire brigade. Five minutes later they were stomping down the aisles of the theatre yelling at everyone to evacuate while I was on stage dancing. Mortified! 

What about gender balance and diversity in your industry?

This industry is for anyone regardless of your background or gender. The arts shouldn’t ever discriminate from allowing people to have their opportunity to take to the stage, or have their role backstage or supporting the creation of shows. If you work hard and put in the work to be good at your job, there will be a place for you.

There is no room for discrimination in this industry; creativity can come from anyone. I encourage diversity in everything we do and I am proud to have a majority of females in the current stage crew on my show!

You can follow Anthony Street on Instagram: @anthonystreet

To read more for ArtsHub‘s So you want my arts job series.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina