• Penny Neef

There’s Magic in the Ether

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Words by Penny Neef. Images courtesy of Virginia Arts Festival.



The holiday season is upon us. Only, not so much this year. I have not seen my Michigan daughter in person since Christmas last year, when we traveled to snowy Ann Arbor and gathered with friends and family. The thought of staying home makes me sad, but it also makes me and those I love safe.


If you are feeling the same way, and are looking for a distraction, a way to travel without traveling, a connection to other people, even for an hour, some joy and wonder, then get on the device of your choice and purchase tickets now for Scott Silven’s The Journey, presented by Virginia Arts Festival from December 8 – 13.


There is a maximum of 30 guests for each virtual show so that each guest has a chance to participate in this live “immersive and intimate” experience. Do not hesitate with your clicking finger. Tickets will sell out quickly.

Scott is sitting in a dark box. The outside of the box, and a box next to him, have mirrors that reflect the surrounding landscape. The resulting photo is very interesting in a way that makes you a little uneasy.

Scott Silven has traveled from his native Scotland to Norfolk twice, in 2018 and 2019. Silven is an illusionist, a mentalist, a storyteller and a performance artist like nothing I have ever seen before. I sat at his right hand in a darkened room last year at Leone’s Italian Restaurant on Granby Street. I sat with 16 strangers and was mesmerized by his Scottish accent, his stories of his childhood in Scotland and his magic. I have no idea of how he did what he did. People overuse the word “magical”, but that night was mysterious and magical.


This year is the year of the devastating pandemic. Silven is stuck in Scotland, and we are stuck in our homes. Virginia Arts Festival has joined with other arts organizations to commission an all new virtual, interactive production from Silven from his home in Scotland. I’m going to say it right now. This is the best virtual show I have attended this year, by far.


Once you purchase your ticket online, you receive an email with a link to test your camera and your mic. It’s important to log on before the show begins, because you must also gather a few things you’re going to need during the experience. I don’t want to give anything away, but they will be things you have at your home. No trip to the store is required.

Scott Sylvan stands in a field in Scotland

At the designated day and time, you click once, and you are at the Scottish coastline. It is a stunning video. There are green hills, craggy coastline and waves crashing against the rocks. There is Scott Silven. Silven is young, tall, long-haired and very handsome. He is striding along the cliffs. He is all alone in this beautiful setting. Just as the sun is setting, you see the remnants of a small, stone cottage. Without giving anything away, that cottage will come back around to enchant you or perhaps to haunt you.


All of a sudden, you are in a room of Silven’s home, “in the heart of the middle of nowhere in Scotland.” It is dark and mysterious. Light and shadows play on the walls. You see yourself, along with the 29 other people who are going to go on this journey with you. Silven begins by greeting you and speaking about the “mystery of time and the power of our memories”.


This Scotsman sure knows how to tell a story. You need to see it and be there. You are there, on the wall of his room. He speaks to you by name, asks you to recall memories, to share experiences with the others in the room, and then astonishes you with his tricks? Mind-reading? Illusions? Has he hypnotized everyone virtually? I don’t know and I don’t care. I escaped to a magical place in Scotland for an hour and had so much fun without leaving my living room.

Silven seems younger than his years and at the same time, much older than his years. He connects his story, your story, and the other people in the room’s stories with his illusions. It seems like everyone in that virtual room was moving in and out and through a journey together.

I am being deliberately vague about the details of Scott Silven’s The Journey. Trust me, you need to experience it for yourself. Tickets and more information for The Journey can be found right here.


This is a perfect gift for someone you love that you can’t be with this holiday season. Perhaps you can meet up with your loved one in Silven’s home in Scotland for a highly unusual, but fascinating experience together.


14 views0 comments