Magic only happens when there’s an audience there to see it.
“It’s kind of like light,” said Andrew Pinard, whose show, “Andrew Pinard: Discovering Magic,” makes at least three return appearances at Red River Theatres, the next on April 9. “You can’t see light; you can only see how light affects other things. Magic is the same way.”
But not just any audience will do; the best audience is one that’s engaged, both emotionally and psychologically.
“Discovering Magic” is currently in its second series of showings at Red River after a very successful fall season. Most events are organized around themes like lying, fate, coincidence, chaos and memory, but Pinard says his productions are not so much about the tricks as they are about the shared experience.
“Since Sept. 11, lots of people talk about the shared experience. It’s something we all have in common and we all share. It becomes our story as opposed to a story. I see myself as the catalyst of this story, but I’m one of the characters, and the audience is another,” Pinard said.
Though he’s certainly got the tricks, too — he estimates he could sit down and perform new tricks nonstop for 10 hours — he tries to encapsulate a deeper meaning in each show.
“I’m trying to share something with the audience that’s not just a ‘Tada!’ experience, but more of a, ‘Why did he do that? Why can I experience this? And what else am I missing?’” Pinard said. “If an audience spends all that time wondering how I did that, if that’s all I’m giving them, I feel like I’ve failed.”
Because magic, he says, isn’t about the secrets. Knowing how something works isn’t always the best thing — he compares it to knowing how sausage is made.
Rather, Pinard tries to create a program in “Discovering Magic” that challenges the way we see the world. Psychologically, Pinard is acutely aware of how the brain can be tricked, as he’s constantly reading books about cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Children have a more open mind, but adults often see things with a narrower vision. Magic, he said, takes advantage of that narrowed vision and those preconceptions.
“We don’t perceive everything. If you did, you’d become overwhelmed with details. But in order to have magic work, you need to have a refined sense of the world around you.”
Pinard has had lots of practice in drawing engaged audience members into his magic shows. A native of Pembroke, Pinard gave his first magic performance in second grade. But he soon drifted into other interests, like music and theater. It wasn’t until he was out of college that he delved into the art again. He was teaching theater at the time, and his girlfriend (now wife) bought him a book about magic.
“For two years, I was pretty obsessively devouring everything I could about magic, how it worked and how it dovetailed with things I was doing in the theater world,” Pinard said. (He’s also worked as a consultant for many regional theater companies, like the Winnepesaukee Playhouse, the American Stage Festival, the Hampton Playhouse, the Nashua Actorsingers and the Kearsarge Arts Theatre Company; he was nominated for a NH Theatre Award for lighting design for Kearsarge Arts Theatre’s Godspell.)
He’s since traveled across the globe to perform his magic and took top honors in the 18th Annual New England Magic Competition, according to his website. But still, after 25 years of being a full-time performer, he’s adamant about making every show different. Recent productions have taken material from legendary historic magicians like Jonathan Harrington and John Ramsay to pay homage to these influences and also to provide a bit of history for audiences.
“It’s fascinating to me how you can perform magic that’s 500 years old and have the same strong reactions from today’s audiences as you would back then,” Pinard said.
As seen in the April 3, 2014 issue of The Hippo.