Like most parents, Elizabeth Cross always supported her son's endeavors - even if they meant a stranger in a clownsuit would show up at their house one day.
"She always let me be me," Elijah Cross said in a recent Facebook post remembering his mother. She died Tuesday, just as Cross was preparing for a one-man performance to celebrate his birthday at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at The Shop at New Grounds.
The performance will still be a celebration, he said, but will instead celebrate her life.
Celebration of life: "Elijah Cross: Elizabeth's Kid" will be a three-act solo performance by Cross that's one part comedy, one part music, and one part magic. A multi-talented singer-songwriter, Cross will perform original material during the show, as well as an interactive magic show that invites the audience to participate in the act.
"Everyone should bring a book," Cross said. "I want as many volunteers as I can for the big finale."
Cross's magic act has been honed over nearly 19 years. He said as a kid he was inspired watching magician David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear.
"I remember thinking, 'Okay, I want to be a part of this,'" he said.
Practicing magic: Cross bought his first magic kit - a trick that turned a stack of nickels in your palm into a dime - and practiced on the unsuspecting teens at his school.
"I've always been kind of a nerdy guy, and all of a sudden there's this crowd around me, and they're not beating me up," Cross said. "I thought, 'This is great.'"
Cross researched books on magic at the library and eventually expanded his magical performance from junior high hallways to street performances, setting up a cardboard sign in front of his house that read "Free magic show." Cars would stop, Cross would perform a trick, and he said occasionally the gracious participant would leave a tip -- a dollar or two.
Which leads to the clown. Cross was standing by his cardboard sign one day when, in a bizarre coincidence, a rabbit showed up. Cross took in the rabbit, but their home already had a lot of pets, he said, so he was relieved when there was a knock on the door. Behind the door was a clown, looking for her lost rabbit.
"So I got to talking to her, you know, as you do with clowns," he said.
It happened to turn out that the clown, who ran an entertainment business nearby, was looking for a magical act to add to her business. Cross and a friend auditioned for her, and she hired them on the spot.
"We were basically like a 14-year-old Penn and Teller," Cross said. "Suddenly it's not a dollar I'm making, it's real money. It was great! Of course I was 14, so all I did was buy more magic tricks."
His family eventually moved to New York, the act was split up, but the love of magic remained. It was joined by a love of performing, which Cross fostered at performing arts school studying musical theory and learning to play seven instruments.
"[Music] was the first thing that kind of grabbed me and made me passionate about the arts," he said.
Upcoming album: He now considers himself primarily a singer-songwriter and has produced an EP, "Flawed Designs," which will be available at Saturday's show. Cross plans to record his first studio album in September, and hopes to release it by the end of the year or early next year.
Comedy, Cross said, was a natural fit for him as a performer. He said he thinks of it as a kind of theater, though most of his comedy is just the random, bizarre thoughts he has that he realized he could perform on stage.
"I was watching Steven Wright, and he's saying these funny, strange things that I just think about all the time," Cross said. "And I thought, 'I can do that.'"
His material draws on his observations of the world around him, funneled through his semi-quirky sense of humor.
"I mean I talk about paper towels and carrots," Cross said. "You know - the real issues."
Cross plans to use the money raised from Saturday's performance to enable him and his wife to travel to Sacramento for his mother's funeral, and to be with his family.
"She never got to see me perform my original stuff in front of an audience," he said. "But I believe that on Saturday, she will have the best seat in the house."
- Reach Amy Peiffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the show
Elijah Cross will perform a one-man comedy, music and magic show during "Elijah Cross: Elizabeth's Kid" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at The Shop at New Grounds Roasting Company, 284 W. Market St., York.
Tickets: $10. Information: www.facebook.com/events/1398119883781414.