Updated October 20, 2021 - 3:10 pm
Jen Kramer has always played the cards dealt to her — and the cards she deals to you. Las Vegas’ only female resident headlining magician made a deal with the Westgate more than three years ago. Her hand has been a winner.
Kramer takes up the 3 p.m. slot at the Westgate Cabaret, where she opened in May 2018. She’s a trailblazer among female magicians, and as a Yale graduate who headlines at the hotel where Elvis once starred.
We caught up with the 29-year-old Kramer this week, as she had just passed her 400th show at the Cabaret. Highlights of our chat:
Johnny Kats: What do you remember about your opening show at Westgate?
Jen Kramer: It was amazing. Some of my friends and family came out to surprise me. My uncle Steve, who bought me my first magic book, was there, and it was really special for him to be a part of it. It was a longtime dream of mine, since I was a kid, to perform in Las Vegas.
How have you made it through the COVID shutdown and coming back to the stage?
It made me realize how much I missed it, missed my family at Westgate and performing. But it pushed me to make some creative changes, to come back and re-imagine what the new normal would be like.
What was one of those creative changes?
We used to have a volunteer come on stage during the “Game Show” routine who would take a jumbo prize card and physically select it. But now we have a way to have someone in the audience be the star of the routine from their seat, and make a legitimate contribution to the show. That’s something that I thought of during the pandemic, and I’ll keep it in the show.
What was your major at Yale?
Theater studies, and that’s only because witchcraft and wizardry was not an option (laughs). I always tell people, “I went to Yale because Hogwarts wouldn’t take me.”
I take it you’re a big Harry Potter fan?
Yes. I performed at many “Harry Potter” book release events at Barnes &Noble in Manhasset, New York, which is just a few minutes from my hometown of Great Neck. In fact, my first consistent gig when I was 14 years old was at that Barnes &Noble. I cold-called the local bookstore and asked if I could do a show there, as a volunteer. I got ahold of the manager, who I hadn’t met, and she was open to meeting with me. She let me try it out. It was really fun, and I performed every other week for a couple of years, on the stage in the storytelling section.
You cold-called the manager of Barnes &Noble for a gig?
(Laughs) I remember I had my first cellphone, and I was on lunch break from school, and I walked out to a gazebo to be able to make the call. Yes, I did that.
How did you make it to Las Vegas?
While I was in college I had an internship with (Vegas headliner) Nathan Burton, at the Flamingo, for two summers. I was figuring out how to make this thing I love so much into a full-time career. I called several Las Vegas hotels, off the Strip, and said, “If you want someone who can do a convenient, family-friendly, afternoon magic show for people who don’t want to go all the way to the Strip, I can do it.” This was from my dorm room in New Haven, Connecticut.
Who was first willing to hire you?
There were a lot of no’s, believe me. But finally, I got a yes from Wyndham Grand Resort. Then I got a weekly show at Grand Desert Resort, and a month later I was at the Marriott Grand Chateau, and a month or two later I added the Cancun Resort. I was piecing together a schedule of these shows and working on a model for what I could present to other hotels.
Then Westgate found you?
Yes. I performed a 30-minute show for the employees at Westgate Cabaret, and it went really well. That had a lot to do with why they brought me in.
I know you are asked all the time about being a female magician, a field where men have dominated. How is it for you now that you have performed for a period of years in Las Vegas?
There are many wonderful women doing wonderful work in magic, and that is exciting. I love when young girls approach me in meet-and-greets, saying, “That was really cool.” I love the excitement. I joined the Young Magicians Assembly No. 69 when I was age 12 through age 18. There were always 15 to 20 boys, but only one girl consistently in the group. That was me (laughs). But I’ve been checking in with them, and now there are several in the group. That is indicative of where the culture is now, and I am proud of that.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.