Magician’s Assistant

By Jenn Rose Smith
Dream Job: Nathalie Holmes, Magician's Assistant | Camille Styles

In our ever-changing city, few establishments (no matter how great) are truly able to span decades. Maybe it’s because Austin’s nightlife is a bit nebulous and always on the move. People go from one hotspot to the next, one style of music to a newer one, one part of town to the hipper, grungier one. Consequently, there’s a surprisingly short list of entertainment venues that have been steadily operating for 35 years or longer. Esther’s Follies is one of those very special places (alongside the Austin City Limits TV Show) that has survived the changing times to emerge as a true Austin establishment. Whether you moved here two years ago or twenty, there’s a good chance you’ve been to an evening comedy show at the little theater on the corner of 6th and Red River. The show at Esther’s Follies is first and foremost funny — and we mean laugh ’til your face hurts funny. You can always count on hilarious and extremely current political satire, charming musical numbers, and magic acts that are just plain fun. We met up with Esther’s cast member Nathalie Holmes to talk about what it’s like to be a part of the funniest show in town, and what it takes to fulfill her role as assistant to magician Ray Anderson. While creating this story, we found ourselves in need of a bunny, and our friends at Tiny Tales to You Traveling Petting Zoo made all our dreams come true by setting us up with Honey Bunny the Lop. In this very special Halloween edition of Dream Job, Nathalie and Honey reveal what it takes to be a working actor in Austin: persistence, charm, and a little bit of magic.

photographed by jessica attie at the little yoga house

We have to admit, we didn’t know Magician’s Assistant was a real job you could have in the year 2015. And we’re kind of obsessed. How on earth did you land such a fun gig?

I know, right? I heard about Esther’s when I was still in college, and thought, I’m going to audition just to say that I did, and they hired me! I still remember the voicemail. It was a really happy day.

Tell us a little bit about your background — did you go to school for magic or for theater?

I have a BA in Theatre Production and Performance from Texas State University as well as a little circus training. I’ve taken lessons in juggling and the flying trapeze. I used to be a clown, too. I’ve had a lot of quirky jobs.

What do you love about acting with Esther’s Follies?     

What’s not to love? I get paid to put on fun costumes and play with my friends. What I love most is the joy it brings to people. Some people just want the spotlight and the applause. That’s part of it, sure, but I’m mostly in it for the laughter and smiles.

Tell us a bit about Ray, the magician you assist. What makes him a great performer?

Ray Anderson is our magic man, and one of my favorite people. He’s so versatile. It’s really what sets him apart. One minute he has your heart racing and the next one you’re crying from laughing so hard. He’s brilliant.

When it comes to assisting a magician, what’s the biggest responsibility you have on stage?

Magic is actually very precise and technical. Even dangerous at times. We performed for the Texas Magicians Convention this year. That’s the most nervous I’ve been in awhile. You just have to stay on your toes. (Unless you’re levitating, of course.)

As an assistant, do you get to learn the secrets behind his tricks? Or does he keep them even from you?

I do, but it’s always exciting when he brings in a new one. I like to hide while he works on it. That way it’s magic to me too. I’ll be featured in his newest illusion, so I definitely need to know how that one works.

What’s the hardest part of your job (either as an actor in general or magician’s assistant) that no one sees from the outside?

When I can’t give it 100%. Performers are human. We get sick. You lose your voice. You slip outside, and now you’re bleeding with a jammed finger. But the show goes on, and it disappoints me when I can’t give it my all. People pay to come see us, and I want to put on a good show.

Follow Honey Bunny and her friends on instagram! @tinytailstoyou

Who are some actors/actresses who inspire you?

Lucille Ball, always. She was so revolutionary. You know she invented the rerun? Dick Van Dyke is the love of my life, truly. His physical comedy is perfect. And Bette Midler is my spirit animal.

What’s your favorite part of the current show at Esther’s?

Esther’s has a few classic sketches. One of which is called, Sam I Am. It’s Sam not getting that hint that this girl isn’t interested in him, but in the style of Dr. Suess. It’s a crowd favorite, and I get to do the sketch with my boyfriend. I look forward to it every show.

We saw that you were recently named “Austin’s Most Eligible Bachelorette” by Austin Monthly. That is huge! Is it hard to date when you’re a working actor?

Isn’t that crazy? I’m the first lady to get the award! I feel honored. And very unwed. I’m actually dating one of my fellow cast members. Before that, I was single forever. Working every weekend can definitely take a toll on your social life.

How many auditions do you think you’ve attended in your lifetime?

Oh my gosh, so many. I’ve been fortunate enough to have also worked in film, television, commercial, music, and voiceovers for video games. But you always have to prove you’re right for the part. Sometimes they make you prove it over and over again.

What’s your pre-show beauty routine?

My dressing room is my sanctuary. It’s decked out in photos from classic hollywood and inspiring quotes. I play 60’s girl groups or listen to an old radio play while getting ready.  It makes me feel pretty. Then it’s try to tame my lion’s mane, and do it to it!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as an actor?

“Be on time. Be prepared. Be sober.” was our college theatre program’s mantra. Simple, but absolutely necessary. Also, be a smart actor. Learn the business side of what you want to do. And don’t take rejection personally — that’s just the business.

Okay, so a lot of actors struggle with the decision to move to LA or New York or stay in smaller markets. You’ve stayed true to Austin in spite of some tempting opportunities out west. What do you love about living and working here?

You’re allowed to try anything here, and you don’t have to go hungry to do it. I’ve literally had Hollywood call my phone. It’s crazy and exciting! But the first thing people say to me in LA is, “I love Austin!”  Me too.

Other cast members of Esther’s Follies have gone on to really big things, including Saturday Night Live. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I’d like to be on a sitcom that I think is genuinely funny. I want to have my own comedy special, and record an album of my original music. But yeah, I wouldn’t kick SNL out of bed.

What advice would you have for a young woman looking to get started in live theater?

It’s not easy. The entertainment industry is what you look like, who you know, and then talent. Just keep at it, girl! Audition for everything. Educate yourself and stay hungry. Every casting director wants you to be the one because they’re tired of looking.

And if we want to catch a show at Esther’s Follies, how do we get tickets?

You can order tickets online, call the box office, or buy tickets at the door. I’d advise buying in advance. Those puppies sell like hotcakes, and then come say hi to me!

Bravo, Nathalie! We can’t wait. Thanks for giving us a backstage peek into your total dream job.

Follow Nathalie:

on the web:
on instagram: @nathalieverafter
on twitter: @NatEverAfter

And follow Honey Bunny and her friends on instagram! @tinytailstoyou