Sunday, February 21, 2010

Focus on hocus-pocus at Firehouse

Don’t take that old Pilot song literally. You know the one ... “Oh, oh, oh it’s magic. Never believe it’s not so.” ... There, now it’s stuck in your head, too. The point is, you can believe if you want, and a lot of people do, but it’s not mandatory. Peter Boie doesn’t need true believers to make the show work. And he doesn’t need a whole box of props to make it work. Bells and whistles-wise, everything he needs for his show, which pulls into the Firehouse this week, fits into a single suitcase — like the straitjacket, the toilet paper and the Tootsie Pops ... Huh? Yeah, Tootsie Pops, but that would be getting way ahead of the story and, worse, giving up the ghost — and a ghost, by the way, is also a part of the act. Specifically, one of the spirits said to haunt Dungeon Rock, located in a forlorn corner of Lynn Woods, where a pirate died after being sealed in a cave with his ill-gotten booty in the 1600s. And the TP? Hang tight, we’ll see.

But the real trick may be learning how to pronounce his name. He says “bwah.” No one else does, of course, but Boie ought to know, right? And the magician is sticking to his linguistic guns, “trying to maintain the integrity of the French pronunciation,” he says. Or maybe the real sleight of hand is how Boie, 27, was able to turn his “geeky little passion” into a profession that has him crisscrossing the country like a rock star. He calls himself “a magician for non-believers,” saying he tries to create an atmosphere where audiences don’t worry about whether it’s real or how he does it. There’s not a whole lot of spectacle in the show: Just a magician and his audience. “You just sit back and enjoy it,” he says.

Magic started as a way to get his mother to stop bugging him about stupid books. She always wanted him to sit around and read, and he, being a kid and everything, just wanted to be outside running around and playing. So one day, when Boie was 11, she dragged him off to the library, and he found a book on magic tricks. Mom figured, hey, reading is reading. His first professional show was at the Grange Hall in Topsham, Maine, a small town near Bowdoin College. He was 15 years old and took home $50 for his efforts ”... and I thought, ‘Wow, they actually paid me for this, for having fun?’” Tape of the event is available, he says, but no one is ever going to see it any time soon. Since then he’s been putting a tight focus on his hocus-pocus, creating and honing his craft over thousands of performances developing the act, winning honors at major competitions around the country (including a first place at the Columbus Magi-Fest and finalist at the Society of American Magicians National stage contest) and performing at college campuses and corporate functions. He’s doing between 150 and 200 shows a year.

He’s in Dubuque, Iowa, for a show at Loras College, explaining the whole “magic for non-believers” thing during a telephone interview. “A lot of people really want to believe, but you don’t have to. You don’t even have to like magic to like the show. Belief is optional. It’s all just entertainment, it’s just for fun,” Boie says. The show will feature comedy routines, funny escapes. He even contacts a ghost from Dungeon Rock. It’s kind of a creepy routine that may raise a goosebump or two, but shouldn’t worry people with pacemakers. There’s an escape routine. That’s what the straitjacket is for. And there’s some sleight of hand. A word of warning, the audience gets involved. That’s what the toilet paper is for. (Sorry, can’t give it away.) The show is evolving all the time. The Tootsie Pop routine, in which the audience will discover what science has never been able to ascertain: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. (Sorry, we can’t give it away here.) A friend, also a magician on the circuit (Yeah they bump into other on the road and talk shop) pulled that idea out of his hat and Boie picked it up and ran with it. It fit, not all new bits do — no matter how good they may be. He still has not delved into multi-media and bigtime Hollywood displays. “It’s just me on the stage,” he says. “It’s not about props, it’s about me and the audience.”

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Magician Peter Boie performs at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Firehouse, 1 Market Square, Newburyport. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. For ticket information, call 978-465-5336 To see a clip of the Boie in action, click here.

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