Card Table Artifice

December 11, 2014


In 1902, a card cheat – S. W. Erdnase (a pseudonym) – self-published what would become the seminal text for sleight-of-hand, The Expert at the Card Table.

In 1992, inspired by that text and, oddly enough, the daily BBC broadcast of off-shore weather reports, renowned composer Gavin Bryars and Spanish poet and sculptor Juan Muñoz created A Man in a Room, Gambling, ten pieces for string quartet with accompanying narration.

In 2014, David Ben, master sleight-of-hand artist, lifelong student of Erdnase, and card cheating, brought a new perspective to the Bryars-Muñoz collaboration. The result is Card Table Artifice, and is performed here by the Art of Time Ensemble (accompanied by Gavin Bryars), with live narration by R.H. Thomson, and card table artistry by David Ben.

Setting the stage for Card Table Artifice will be Rob Zabrecky’s “TURN ON THE DARK!”, a 45-minute performance of the comically macabre.

Programme Nine


Three Card Monte



Gavin Bryars

Gavin Bryars first gained recognition in the early sixties as a jazz bassist working with improvisers Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. He subsequently collaborated with John Cage and Cornelius Cardew. Bryars was instrumental in founding the legendary Portsmouth Sinfonia. His first major work as a composer was the indeterminist work The Sinking of the Titanic (1969), which appeared on Brian Eno’s Obscure Records in 1975, and was remixed by Aphex Twin as Raising the Titanic in 1994. He composed Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet in 1971. This work was rerecorded in the 90s with Tom Waits. Medea, his first opera, was staged by Robert Wilson in Lyon in 1984. Doctor Ox’s Experiment, his second, was staged by Atom Egoyan in London in 1998. Bryars has collaborated with many artists and choreographers including Mercer Cunningham, William Forsythe and Christian Boltanski.

David Ben

David Ben is a writer, producer, magician and creative consultant. He was the sole protégé of Ross Bertram, one of the premier virtuoso sleight-of-hand artists of the 20th century. Ben has written, in coloration with broadcaster Patrick Watson, several stage productions including The Conjuror (1996), The Conjuror’s Suite (1999), Tricks (2004) and Natural Magick (2011). His books include Advantage Play (2002), Dai Vernon: A Biography (2006) and Slaight: Off Hand (2013). In 2013 Ben wrote, performed and co-produced (along with Reel Time Images) a short film, The Devil’s Playthings. Ben has also served as the magic consultant for a variety of stage productions at the Shaw Festival, Soulpepper Theatre and the Stratford Festival. He is the co-founder of Magicana and current serves as its Artistic Director. For the past five years he has curated and co-produced the magic programming for Luminato.

Art of Time Ensemble

The Art Of Time Ensemble was formed in 1997 by artistic director Andrew Burashko, a renowned, Toronto-based concert pianist, as an outlet for his vision of presenting classical music both old and new in unique juxtaposition with other musical genres and performing arts forms, with the goal of increasing audiences for classical music. The company has since grown from a formative vision into a leader among ground-breaking not-for-profit performing arts organizations, presenting concerts at the Royal Conservatory Of Music’s prestigious Koerner Hall and an annual, fully-curated subscription season at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre.

R.H. Thomson

Having studied at the University of Toronto, The National Theatre School and in England, R.H. Thomson has been one of the leading actors in Canada for the past 30 years, performing extensively on stage, television and film. He has worked in Canada, Europe and the US. He has won awards for his acting, his directing and his writing. His work has encompassed a wide range of roles as an actor and as well a career as a director, narrator and television host.

Rob Zabrecky

With a wide body of artistic work that includes music, magic and acting, Rob Zabrecky is a global entertainer. He began as a musician as the singer-songwriter and bassist for the Los Angeles group Possum Dixon, releasing three albums in the 90s on Interscope Records. In 2011 and 2012 the Magic Castle recognized him as the “Stage Magician of the Year.” Recently, Zabrecky completed principal photography in How to Catch a Monster, Ryan Gosling’s directorial fantasy noir debut. Zabrecky sets the stage for everyday life, and then sets it on fire. LA Weekly describes him best: “Rob Zabrecky—the name means ‘Abracadabra,’ sideways.” 


June 13 | 8 PM
June 14 | 8 PM

2 hours, with interval

Jane Mallett Theatre
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
27 Front Street East


Music by Gavin Bryars

Book by David Ben

Performed by The Art of Time Ensemble
(with special guest, Gavin Bryars)
Live Narration by R.H. Thomson
Card Manipulation by David Ben

Directed by David Ben
Set & Lighting Design by Glenn Davidson
Video Design by Cameron Davis
Sound Design by John Lott

Produced in association with Luminato Festival