By Evan Pang Courier Contributor
Graphic by Irene Gurbein
A paper airplane floated above the audience and landed in a
student’s lap. She was the first volunteer to take part in the act. She brought the airplane back on stage and was asked to state her favourite number and somewhere she would like to travel. The performer asked her to read the writing on the paper airplane. It read “Amsterdam 17.” Magic. This trick was one of many performed by mentalist and illusionist Wayne Hoffman at the Progress campus on Sept. 15 leaving Centennial students in awe.
EP: Where did you study to become a mentalist?
WH: I studied psychology in college and then left early to do my own self-studies. There is no school for mind readers, so I had to pick up books on body language reading, neurolinguistic programming, hypnotism, etc. I even studied statistics, sociology, and biochemistry.
EP: How long did you study to be successful at what you do?
WH: I’ve been performing for 22 years. 15 of those have been professionally. It took me a few years to really start to understand the complex subtleties in mentalism. I was able to learn magic and sleight of hand a lot faster because I was able to practice that alone.
Unfortunately, to really practice mentalism, you have to have a person in front of you. Plus it’s boring to stand there reading my own mind.
EP: In your opinion is there a close relationship between illusion and mentalism?
WH: I love both mentalism and illusion. Both of them make you question your senses and the world around you. They both rely heavily on psychology and people’s assumptions about the human psyche. Illusions really play toward a person’s eyes, whereas mentalism plays toward a person’s intellect. Early in my career many of my colleagues said that I couldn’t perform both and I had to pick one. I feel like I broke the mold by doing both…and I’m glad I did.
EP: Have you ever had a show go terribly wrong?
WH: I’ve never had an entire show go wrong, however I’ve had times throughout my career where a single routine didn’t go as planned. The key to being a good performer is having the ability to “dance with the problem.” If anything goes wrong in my show, I know it went sour, but my audience has no clue. For example, if I wanted to make something disappear I would simply say, “Watch this” and stare at the object. If it didn’t disappear, I would be the only person to know. In which case I would use my knowledge of magic to make the object levitate instead. The audience would gasp and have no clue that the illusion didn’t go as planned. I try to stay one step ahead of everyone. In fact, I get paid to do that.
EP: What helps you read people the most, speech?
WH: There is no single answer to that question and I believe that fact is the key to being a mentalist. Everyone is searching for how I do it when in fact there is no direct answer. I employ a countless number of methods, which are all circumstantial.