The theatre can be a magical place. For some, there is a special kind of beauty to working behind the scenes to make a production happen. For performers, they can’t wait to emerge in front of an audience to showcase what they’ve been working on- sometimes for months or years.

For illusionist Nicholas Wallace, the magic is felt not only within the performance, but also in creating a narrative around it. Following recent appearances on TV’s America’s Got Talent and Penn and Teller: Fool Us, the talented local magician is looking for his own next big hit and inviting his friends to participate in the search. During the month of September at the Staircase Theatre, Wallace will spend each Wednesday night trying to perfect a new illusion or magic trick with a variety of guest artists also workshopping new material as he hosts an unpredictable show appropriately dubbed The Surprise Show.

“Whether you’re an actor, musician or storyteller- you can practice all you want at home,” Luke Brown, Co-Producer of The Surprise Show, said. “But until you’ve done it in front an audience, you don’t know if it works on stage.”

Brown and Wallace became close when Brown was directing a show that required illusions. He reached out to Wallace for assistance, and the two quickly developed a close partnership. Since then, the duo has built a number of successful shows together onstage and maintained a close friendship offstage.

As they build their next show together, The Surprise Show is an opportunity for audiences to be a part of the work-in-progress. Each 90-minute show will contain 45-minutes of local performers trying out their material with the remaining 45-minutes focused on Wallace testing out material. As they leave, audience members are encouraged (but not required) to share their thoughts so performers can make improvements or changes. The following Wednesday, Wallace will return with elements of his performance revised, or something completely different, depending on past audience reactions and input. The goal is the work-in-progress will develop into a more complete presentation by the end of the series.

In addition to magic, other performers and art forms will be featured performers. Stand-up comedians and street performers will also be testing new material, and Brown is currently seeking out singers and songwriters interested in workshopping material for 5-15 minutes at a time.  

Although he’s a co-producer of the show, even Luke Brown will be showcasing some new work. Often best know for his efforts as Theatre Aquarius’ Director of New Play Development, Brown is currently working on a podcast that features notably weird moments in history. With eight episodes currently written, Brown is looking for feedback on his script and will be presenting 5-10 minutes of a podcast as part of The Surprise Show before he records the podcast in the near future.  

“We’re all jumping into this together,” Brown said. “performers and audience- we’re all jumping into the deep-end and maybe exploring things that we aren’t comfortable with. But we want everyone to know that this is a work-in-progress. With a short performance window, it’s okay if it doesn’t go okay.”

Although there is a cost to attend the show, Brown is quick to point out that the ticket costs have been kept as low as possible to only cover the costs of producing the show each week. The real benefit to him and the other performers onstage, is learning from the audience how they can make their show more enriching and entertaining.

“It’s exciting that we’re in a place and time in Hamilton where there are artists here that are working on creating their own work and there is a place that is open and respectful to them doing that. It’s exciting that there are audiences who are willing to come and participate in that process. We’re excited to be able to do that in The Surprise Show.”

Who: Luke Brown, Nicholas Wallace & guests
What: The Surprise Show
Where: Staircase Theatre (27 Dundurn Street North)
When: September 4, 11, 18 & 25 at 8pm
Tickets: Available at the door
More Information: Facebook Event Page

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