Magic mind reading and mayhem: A Q+A with mentalist Erik Dobell

Erik Dobell, left, and Chris Collins. Photo courtesy of the artists

Magical comedian Chris Collins and mentalist Erik Dobell recently teamed up to combine their talents into one astonishing show. The result, Impossibilities: An Evening of Magic, Mind Reading and Mayhem, comes to N.C. Stage Company for three nights — Friday, Sept. 4 to Sunday, Sept. 6. Friday and Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, at 2 p.m. $18 advance/$22 at the door/$55 VIP includes meet-and-greet, a magic kit and signed photograph.

In advance of the show, Dobell spoke to Xpress about the program’s inspirations.

Mountain Xpress: Why do you think that magic shows have less of a following than other forms of entertainment?

Erik Dobell: When Chris and I perform Impossibilities, we’re often told after the show that we’re the first magic show [that audience member has] ever seen. Not because of a lack of interest but a lack of opportunity. On any Friday night, you can bar-hop and check out three different bands. Magicians certainly aren’t that common. That’s why I think it’s so important to present the best show we possibly can, because it may be that person’s first and last time seeing something like this.

Chris Collins came up with the idea of combining his magic show with your mentalist show. Why did you think it was a bad idea at first, and what changed your mind?
While magic and mentalism certainly have things in common, they are very different in performance. The idea of mixing the two to the degree that we ended up doing seemed like it would make a wonky show. Then we put the general outline of the show on paper. Maybe it’s the type of material Chris and I perform, or maybe it’s how we present each piece, but I just started to realize that this could be a really fun show to perform and to see — a show that has a little bit of everything without feeling cluttered. This may sound self-serving but if I wasn’t in the show, I’d happily pay my money to go see it.

What mentalists inspired you to go into the field? How did you get started?
Strangely, I wasn’t inspired by a mentalist. Remember what I said earlier about magic and mentalism shows being rare? I didn’t know what a mentalist was when I got into this. I just wanted to be like Sherlock Holmes, and mentalism seemed like a way to do that.

[My favorite book] is by a guy named T.A. Waters. It is this 900-page monster of his life’s work, and that is what really got me going. The first time I read it, I didn’t understand anything he was talking about, but I knew I wanted to be a mentalist.

Since then, there are a handful of mentalists that really inspire me. I think the big one for me is The Amazing Kreskin who I was fortunate enough to see about three years ago. I also draw a lot of influence from George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield, stand-up comedy in general. I love that they can completely engage an audience for 60 minutes with nothing but jokes and personality.

What would you most like audiences to know about both mentalism and magic?
That they like it, they just don’t know it yet.

Can you give us an idea of what to expect with Impossibilities: An Evening of Magic, Mind Reading and Mayhem?
A fun filled, interactive evening with two performers who have been doing this for a long time and want nothing less than to give the audience the best show possible.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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