Tayissa Artomonow knew she needed more from life than nightclubs and bars, but she was dubious when a friend suggested going to a magic show.
“I said, ‘yeah okay’, thinking it’s probably a family show or a children’s show,” she says.
But what she found was “the gateway to the beautiful Melbourne magic community”.
Tayissa quickly became immersed, attending shows weekly. She became known as their biggest fan and brought large groups of people every month to Magic Monday.
Not only did she indulge her passion for magic, but it was her way of being suportive. “It’s one of those arts where it’s way better shared with friends,” she says.
“Some of my most precious memories are … my friends laughing at each other on stage or collectively watching something amazing happen in front of our eyes.”
Tayissa’s devotion to magic lead her to be a part of the World’s Longest Magic Show in 2016 where she watched 70 hours out of a record 85 hours of magic.
“I arrived at 6.30am on Friday and I set up a bag with some food, some snack bars, some water and some caffeine in it. I put the bag behind the stage and just settled in to watch hours of magic,” she says.
“I knew that my allocation of sleep would be five hours a night. So, between midnight and five, I snuck to the couch that was at the back of the theatre and just curled into a ball and slept. I was very lucky to be able to do that.”
Tayissa says she went into the experience badly unprepared. “I had to organise for friends to do food drops. I also didn’t book enough time off work, so I had to rock up to work on the following Tuesday with 15 hours of sleep over four days.”
“It was a slightly delirious madcap adventure, but I don’t know if I’d do it again. If I did, I’d have to really up my own planning. You get some side effects … clapping for 70 hours of magic took the first layer of skin off my hands.”
“The magicians really pulled together to ensure that I could be the one that stayed the longest. We became almost like a family by the end. It was a great experience and it was hilarious fun.”
Melbourne based magician Lee Cohen describes Tayissa as “the loveliest, quickest, most passionate person I’ve ever come across.”
“It’s really lovely to have someone who just genuinely loves coming to shows. It’s not about being a crazy super fan for one individual performer, it’s just a genuine love of the magic industry.”
Lee has known Tayissa for over 10 years and says she forms a key part of her own journey as a performer. “Since she’s been on the scene, she’s certainly been part of that journey because she’s seen all the shows and characters that I’ve done, and she still comes and still supports.”
If you’re feeling a bit nervous you know you can always look in her direction because she’ll be clapping, smiling and encouraging you just for being up there. That’s something really comforting as a performer.
Lee brings out an award that Tayissa, “a crafter to the max”, made for her many years ago.
“From time to time, she’ll do the Tay Awards for excellence in magic. I’m not sure if it’s a once a year thing or just when she feels like it, but she does stuff like that and it’s just adorable.”
“Since the early days she’s always been someone that she would just turn up to a gig randomly and be like, ‘I made you this card’. It’s just so special to have that.”
“And it’s not just me that she does that for, I know she’s done that with Anthony [another magician] over the years and lots of people.”
For Tayissa her enjoyment of magic has not worn off. “I really enjoy magic as an art form. It changes my perspective on things and makes me forget about my usual day-to-day life. As soon as I go to a magic show I’m transported elsewhere, it’s a really nice escape.
“Even if I’ve seen 650 shows, you never know who in the audience might get up to be a volunteer and be absolutely hilarious.”
Tayissa enjoys the spontaneity and surprise of never knowing when she might get chosen to help out, another factor that draws her back to the art of magic.
Despite COVID-19 closing venues, magic has not disappeared from Tayissa’s life. Some of Melbourne’s best magicians have moved their shows online including Tim Ellis, the president of The Australian Institute of Magic and artistic director of the Melbourne Magic Festival.
Ellis runs weekly Friday night shows from the Laneway Theatre featuring magicians from Melbourne. Internationally, stars such as Carissa Hendrix, Eric Chen and Dom Chambers have also made the move online.
“Obviously there are effects that are less effective through an online medium, or perhaps there are aspects of the performance that magicians can’t do, or they have to modify heavily,” Tayissa says.
“But honestly I’ve had such a great time and it’s nice to not have magic taken away from my life.”
At present she averages two to three magic shows a week, so she still gets her fill, and there are benefits to watching from home. “I can often watch a magic show wearing my slippers and I don’t have to spend time traveling and organising meals.”
Life without magic is unimaginable. “It’s been such a part of my life that I don’t think about what it would be like without it, but I think it would be pretty dry,” she says.
“I’d still have other hobbies like scrapbooking and card- making, but I think the void would probably be filled with something else, but it would be way less adventurous and way less exciting.”