The frightening new performance by magician and illusionist Nick Wallace is playing at the Scottish Rite on Wednesday June 25, Thursday June 26, and Friday the 27th.
By Kevin Somers
Published June 16, 2014
this article has been updated
"No thanks, Kevin (my kids call me Kevin), it's too terrifying," said one.
"Yeah, I'm still freaked out by the last time," said the other. "I was terrified."
"Terrified?" I protested. "It's just a show."
"It doesn't matter," came in stereo. "It's too scary."
Such was the conversation with my teenage daughters, when I asked them if they wanted to see Séance with me again.
Séance is a theatrical performance, hosted by local magician and illusionist Nick Wallace. The first performances, earlier this year, were at Theatre Aquarius. Later this month, Séance is being reincarnated at the spookier Scottish Rite. I dare you to go.
After a well-crafted introduction into paranormal activity and the fascinating history of our eternal endeavours to play with the dead, the audience takes part in a real séance (oxymoron?), hosted by Nick. A medium is chosen from the audience.
Wallace, who was recently hailed Canada's "Champion of Magic," puts his spectacular illusion skills to work and scares the pants off some and the shriek out of others.
Between the illusions and the audience's reaction, Séance was a heightening experience. As per séance dictates, we were holding hands and my girls squeezed mine like their lives depended on it. During the show, there were screams, tears, and whimpers from a fearful, fear-filled, fear-loving audience.
Fear is a fascinating phenomenon. When we're scared, the brain scrambles into danger mode, as it releases a cocktail of chemicals, triggering the flight-or-fight response. In controlled settings, people enjoy being scared and the rush it provides. As Nick says, "Everyone loves a good ghost story."
The scare business, from Halloween to horror flicks, generates trillions. Parker Brothers have introduced a glow-in-the-dark version of Ouija, an enduring, popular board "game." Haunted Hamilton offers ghosts walks around the GHA, including Niagara-on-the-Lake, "Canada's most haunted town."
Each of us has particular and peculiar fears and phobias, but death is our greatest collective fear. Unfortunately, it is inevitable, so people have been searching for alternative endings, since (In) the beginning. Faith and fear and life and death and life after death are inexorably linked and always have been.
Every culture has had a supernatural belief system and "special" citizens with "special" powers, which, supposedly, enable them to connect with another world and, thusly, placate the dread of dying. The fear of finality is lessened with paranormal promises, like eternal life or reincarnation, or an opportunity to hang with the dead, at a séance.
In researching this piece, I went to the library and realized how steeply and deeply spiritualism is ingrained in our species. There are more books on religion than science.
I found a picture book for young children called "Ghosts," with "Science" also prominently on the cover. The first page concludes, "Maybe the spirits of the dead are here on Earth after all."
Another children's book is titled, "How To Become a Witch."
"Protecting Your Teen From Today's Witchcraft," with the sub-title, "A Parent's Guide To Confronting Wicca And The Occult," is for Mom and Dad, ten years hence.
I don't believe in ghosts or God, but I believe in magic. The genius, skill, and work ethic required to be a successful magician and illusionist is unbelievable, superhuman, paranormal.
I first saw Wallace, three summers ago, at the Hamilton Fringe Festival and was blown away. I bought three tickets to the next night's show and returned with my daughters. They, too, were blown away. We reminisce about the conversation during the drive home.
"How does he do that?" asked Claire, the younger.
"I don't know," I said. "That's why I wanted you to see the show. It's good, eh?"
"Yeah, but... how does he do that?"
"Yeah... but... I don't get how he can do that."
I enjoy picking brains, so it was a pleasure to sit down with Nick and Luke Brown, the director and co-creator of Séance, recently, to talk about theatre, life, and death, and the theatre of life and death.
Wallace hails from Vineland and became interested in illusions and magic at a young age. His grandfather was a gambler and the uber-perceptive Nick noticed his cards were marked. Wallace is self-taught and, as a child, he'd practice in front of his family. By the time he was a teenager, Nick was performing around Hamilton.
"Interestingly, I did a show at the Scottish Rite when I was 14 and I remember being in the car and being very nervous. I hadn't been that nervous since, until we did Séance."
Séance, he explained, is his first time using unknown people, who act as the "medium" in the show. "It could have been a disaster," he said.
"I thought the medium was part of the act," I said. "I thought they were in on it."
"No," Luke said, "a lot of people thought that. They weren't. The mediums were different and random, each performance."
"Whoa," I said, "that changes everything." Channeling Claire, I asked Nick, "How did you that?"
"Yeah... but... I don't get how you can do that."
Magic and illusions put Wallace through college. Upon graduating, he kept going and has been self-employed, since. "So far, so good," he says. He'll be working on Theatre Aquarius's upcoming production of Mary Poppins. "I went through the script and noted places where illusions would work."
I asked, "How long does it take you to go from the idea, or concept, of an illusion, until you work out how to do it?"
"Sometimes it's instant," he said.
Originally from Nova Scotia, Luke has been an Artistic Associate at Theatre Aquarius for several years and is the veteran of many productions. As with Wallace, Séance was the scariest show he's been involved with, from a production point of view.
"It's a big experiment," he said. "We're facing the challenge of doing something scary in a theatrical environment. We're using the skills of a magician, but it's not a magic show.
"It's interactive, as well, we're using audience members. We didn't know what they would do. We had no idea if it would work."
"How did it go?"
"Very well," said Luke. I saw the first performance and agreed.
Nick said, "We've been reworking and fine tuning, making the illusions more impossible."
Luke said, "The show is much better, now. It's a lot scarier."
I look forward to another experience. (Minus my cowardly kids, of course.)
Séance is only on for three nights, Wednesday June 25, Thursday June 26, and Friday the 27th. I'm afraid seats are limited and going frightfully, frighteningly fast, so get ghouling.
Remember, there's nothing to fear, but fear.
Oh, my goodness
I feel queer
Like a ghost or goblin
Might be near
That feeling you're feeling is fear, my dear
One never knows when it might appear
Fear lurks in the dark
It's under your bed
Fear lives and breathes inside your head
It's creeping around within your brain
Which is working real hard to try and contain it
...Or restrain it...
... I'm afraid I can't explain it
Whether the threat is imagined or an impending disaster
When fear kicks in, it becomes your master
Chemicals flow and the heart beats faster
Ready to run or getting real mean
Heightened awareness, senses keen
Do you flee the scene or become a killing machine?
Fear scares us
It impairs us
But fear prepares us
To fight or take flight
Right to the light
Or into the night
So we can live for another day
And return to fight the fright
Or keep on running further away
I lie in bed
Consumed with dread
What if tomorrow
I wake up dead?
What is out there?
Who's coming for me?
What is it that I can't see?
Maybe it's O.J. and his knife
Stopping by to take my life
Perhaps it's a phantom bent on drama
Maybe a spirit intent on trauma
What are you scared of?
What frightens you?
Are you afraid of zombies, too?
I got zombie-repellent, just in case
I'll spray it in the zombie's face
I think of it as "zombie-mace"
I'm afraid of the dark
I'm afraid of heights
I'm afraid of dogs
I'm afraid of kites
I'm afraid of spiders
I'm afraid of the dead
I'm afraid of the voices inside of my head
I'm afraid of ghouls, goblins, graveyards, and ghosts
I'm afraid of the possessed, mediums, vessels, and hosts
I'm afraid of drunk and distracted drivers
I'm afraid there won't be any survivors
I'm afraid of dying
I'm afraid I will die
I'm so afraid, I'm afraid I might cry
I'm afraid that it's time we said good-bye
I'm afraid that it's over, I can't pretend
I afraid I must tell you, my fear-addled friend
I'm afraid that Fear has come to The End
Update: Due to the show selling out quickly, another performance has been added on Friday night at 10:00 PM. You can order tickets online.
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