It’s time to hit the carnival, but this one is here to bring amusement to the mind. Vinny DePonto’s Mental Amusements will be hitting the stage at Bristol Riverside Theater, but the magic will happen virtually for audiences who buy tickets for his show on Sept. 25, 26, or 27. DePonto, who normally performs in Coney Island, decided to bring his abilities as a mentalist to the digital sphere after COVID-19 hit. Transitioning has been a challenge for the performer, but having the ability to also hit audiences around the world from a local regional theater was the driving force for his show which he says is a “carefully crafted carnival for the mind.”
Interested ticket buyers can buy two tickets: General Admission, and Front Row. One allows you to participate in some at-home tricks and watch the show, and the latter allows you to become a participant for a virtual mind reading from DePonto himself.
DePonto sat down with Metro to discuss more on what audiences can expect from his shows this week and why he hopes his work will help use the uncertainty surrounding us now to help induce a sense of wonder.
For those who don’t know, what is it exactly that you do?
I’m a mentalist by trade—which means sort of like a magician, but I focus more on the psychological tricks. I’m also a theater-maker by trade, I’ve been in the theater world for many years and my art is a combination of psychological tricks, illusions, visual art, immersive storytelling—that sort of thing.
Obviously, the pandemic has affected everyone, so what did you do to change your show to the virtual front?
I had to completely re-imagine my work for the virtual stage. A lot of live performer’s work is interactive, it’s not just actors. You need participation, you need people in the room and a live human mind to read, so it’s been a challenge, but it’s also been really a great and unexpected joy to perform. To be honest, I was sort of against it at first but I thought I would need to try it—not even just for the money, but for my own well-being. I like performing, it’s a great passion and I love theater, so I wanted to create a project that I could have to stay positive and to get lost in wonder. That reminded me of the carnival. When you go to a carnival as a kid or the amusement park, you kind of leave the outside world outside. You come into this sort of world of amusements, so that’s what I wanted to do for people, even if it’s just for an hour. I sort of discovered after doing it for quite some time that people from all over the world were coming to my show—It was pretty incredible, I got to meet people from China and Australia who were watching my show at all hours of the day, which is great.
What can people expect from your upcoming virtual show, what does it incorporate?
Without giving too much away, it’s an interactive mind reading show, and it’s like I said—a carefully crafted carnival for the mind. There are interactive tricks with objects that you can do in your own home, there are some mind control effects that I do through the screen, and it’s all sort of put together in an interactive, thematic way.
What can the front row ticket holders expect?
I’m trying to make that experience as personal as possible. We’ll have eight different people in the front row every single night, and everyone is watching just like everyone else from home, nobody is an actor or plant or anything. These are people who rotate in and out based on who buys the ticket, and I’m trying to make it as personal as possible, which means when they pop up on the screen, I’ll talk to them a bit. I’ll do a bespoke illusion and psychological tricks just for them, and there are those moments built into my show. So I will definitely interact with the people on a personal level.
What’s been the biggest change going from the in-person to the virtual format for your line of work?
I’ve been a stage performer for 20 years now, and I think the hardest thing is trying to craft a connection to the screen. We are all so bogged down by our virtual, computer and screen life, and I think my goal was to dissolve the screen. I use a lot of things in my show that are not technology, or at least modern technology, that I hope will try and convince people that we are in the same room together. So, the biggest challenge has been crafting a connection that you would get in person and the energy that you would feel in person.
On the other hand, what’s been the most beneficial aspect of switching to the virtual show?
Just like I mentioned before, that we’re not confined to people in a local area. We’re doing this at BRT but we could be selling tickets in Australia, in LA—it literally allows me to be in a virtual tour and not leave my studio.
What do you hope audiences take away from the show after getting to experience it?
I would hope that they feel like it’s a unique experience and I hope its just not another Zoom show. I hope that our connection and exploration of amusements and wonders transcend the screen and I hope that people feel that way. We’re all a work in progress right now and dealing with uncertainty, and I think the job of a magician is to use uncertainty to bring wonder to people. I think that’s what I’m trying to do here, and It will evolve I’m sure as we all evolve.
Vinny DePonto’s Mental Amusements will take place Sept. 25 (7:30 pm), 26 (5;30 pm) or 27 (7:30 pm.) Tickets and more information are available online at brtstage.org or by calling the box office at 215-785-0100. More information about the show can also be found at: mentalamusements.com