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Matt MacPhee remembers the exact moment he knew he wanted to become a stage hypnotist.
It happened at his safe grad party in 2014, when he saw hypnotist Ian Stewart perform a show for graduating students.
“At the time, I was into magic; performing card tricks. I also liked to act,” says the Charlottetown Rural High graduate.
That night seeing Stewart’s blend of hypnotism, audience participation and non-stop laughter inspired him.
“I thought it was really cool and it looked like something I would be able to do.”
He wanted to learn more. So, he started reading every book and online resource he could find. He went on to study for the profession; getting his accreditation as a stage hypnotist three years ago. Since then he performs every chance he gets.
“People find hypnotism fascinating because there’s an air of mystery to it. It seems mystical when it’s happening. It’s not as easy to explain,” says the UPEI theatre major who is bringing his Matt Man comedy hypnotist show to the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside on Feb. 1. Show time is 7:30 p.m.
During the family-friendly show MacPhee guides audience members through a series of fun exercises to find volunteers who can easily “go under” and join him on stage.
The trick is watching for the moment when they’re about to go asleep; when the brain is switching from the conscious to the unconscious.
It’s at that point he jumps in and helps them go to sleep or “under” as he calls it. That’s when the fun starts.
“I start off very simply, with the suggestion that they’re sitting on the beach and it’s getting really hot. So, you’ll see the physicality of people, waving their hands or pulling at their shirts. And we go from there.”
MacPhee’s theatre teacher is enthusiastic about his show.
“I have seen Matt's routine and it is great,” says UPEI professor Greg Doran.
He believes the UPEI Theatre Studies program helped his student tap into his talent.
“It showed him that he had the basic talent to be a good performer. With the training that he has received, he has become a much better performer than the young man in his first show with Vagabond. He is amazingly at ease performing his hypnosis act.”
But MacPhee says it’s not as easy as it looks.
“Rehearsing hypnosis is remarkably difficult because you don’t have someone to practise on, all of the time. So you have to practise by yourself, regulating your voice and knowing your script back and forward.”
Then on performance nights, he’s the only one on stage.
“When I’m doing the show I’m thinking of 100 things at once. I’m thinking about where I’m standing, so everyone can see. I’m also keeping an eye on everyone, watching for signs that they’re going under and keeping everyone on stage safe.”
But MacPhee, who calls his show Dreamchaser, wouldn’t change it for anything.
“I’m chasing a dream – to make my living by entertaining lots and lots of people. As well, hypnotism puts people into a dreamlike state. So I’m living the dream.”
If you are going
- What: Mattman Hypnosis Presents: Dreamchaser
- When and where: Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m., Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside. Doors open at 7 p.m.
- Information: Tickets are available at the box office, by calling 902-888-4469 or by visiting harbourfronttheatre.com.
Call in and win
- The question is: What university does Matt MacPhee attend?
- The prize: A pair of tickets to his Feb. 1 show.
- Last week’s winner: To be announced later.
Sally Cole is an entertainment writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.