Such was the rallying cry of Wayne Hoffman, the world-renowned illusionist and mentalist who performed in a free show at the Massey Performing Arts Center Wednesday night.
Hoffman, who has been featured on every major cable and network TV channel, specializes in what he calls mind candy–gathering basic information about people, including their dress, posture and accent, to be able to formulate an idea of what they are probably thinking.
In essence, Hoffman reads their minds.
“I read a person to envision what they might be thinking,” Hoffman said. “In the same way an Olympic gymnast can do amazing things that I can’t do, I can do things others can’t do. You have to train to be a mentalist.”
The event was organized by the Student Activities Programming Board as the first in a new collection of events known as the Bruin Lecture Series.
Hoffman began the show innocently enough with an illusion that, while impressive, was ultimately nothing more than a small taste of what was to come.
He quickly jotted something down on paper, formed an airplane out of it and then threw into the crowd. After it landed, he called whomever was closest to it to come on stage. That participant–Hannah–then had to tell Hoffman her name and any random number–14.
Written on the paper airplane were the following words: “Hannah. 14.”
At that point, the tone for the night was set and any promises of weirdness were more than delivered. There were a number of tricks performed throughout the evening, but the highlight was arguably one which involved two Belmont juniors, Cam Bryant and Kristoff Hart.
Hoffman preceded the segment with an anecdote about the connection felt between those in a close relationship–twins, best friends and siblings, to name a few—and how one could be miles apart yet feel what happens to the other.
He then asked for two participants who shared such a relationship to join him on stage. Bryant and Hart, who have been friends since high school, fit the bill.
“It was all Cam’s fault,” Hart said. “When he asked ‘Are there any siblings in the audience?’, Cam said we were. But we’re not.”
Once the two candidates were placed about two feet apart, Hoffman asked them to close their eyes and follow all of his instructions, which included actively envisioning the other person.
While the two were visibly concentrating, Hoffman was gesturing around them to join their energies.
“We’re all made of energy. It’s a scientific fact,” he said in the midst of his performance.
Once he felt the connection was firmly established, the magic truly began.
Hoffman’s first demonstration was to brush Hart’s arm twice with a feather. He then asked both of them—eyes still closed—to raise their hand if they felt a brush.
Both of them raised their hands.
The next question was how many times they were brushed.
They both said two times—yet only Hart was actually touched.
Hoffman continued in a similar fashion, and the result was almost always the same. The climax of the set piece, however, involved a permanent marker and a simple marking.
The mentalist drew an “X” on Hart’s arm. They both felt it, unsurprisingly. But, a few moments later, the only one with ink on his skin was Bryant.
“It was amazing, mind-blowing, real magic. It felt real,” Bryant said afterwards. “I don’t know how he did it. It was the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Hart shared Bryant’s sentiments.
“It was very surreal. I knew he had touched me but not Cam, but what threw me off completely was when the ‘X’ appeared on Cam. I can’t explain it,” he said.
But as impressive as the evening was, it had an unexpected uplifting message added to it that sweetened the deal.
Hoffman encouraged the audience to use the power of their thoughts to change how they saw the world and reawaken the childlike wonder they had lost by “getting older and learning stuff,” he said.
“We are all actors playing the part of an adult,” he said. “You control your thoughts, you take back your life and it becomes magical.”
After it was all said and done, the audience received Hoffman’s antics and ideas with unbridled enthusiasm, a feeling that was reciprocated by the performer.
“It was a great audience,” he said. “I’ve been to thousands of schools, and Belmont was a great audience.”