Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Creative Spirit Seance

Last night, I went with some friends to Baltimore's trendy Hampden neighborhood to attend a seance.

Of course, it was really a theatrical presentation. A hard-nosed skeptic like me wouldn't pay money to attend a "real" spiritualist seance. Long, long ago, I attended a performance at Wheaton, MD's late, great Psychic Ghost Theater for my birthday; that was great fun. It started off with a normal magic show, then a demonstration of a Victorian "spirit cabinet," and then a harrowing "real" seance that used a lot of the tricks that fraudulent mediums use. It's a wonderful memory that I carry with me.

This was, well, different. It's held in the upper floor of an old church (which turns out to be a private home rented out to productions), and it's a cool space. We were handed wires with which to sculpt into anything we wanted, and then gathered in a small area where host David London gave a talk on creativity, and then talked to us about the sculptures we created. Eventually he collected the sculptures and melted them in an "alchemical furnace" and dumped the molten result in a bowl of cold water. We were given pieces and told to look at them and think of what we saw.

It was like that, full of little creative exercises. We drew on triangles and they were assembled into a larger puzzle, after a trick in which an audience member identified the blank triangles from the drawn-on ones. There was a guided meditation followed by a ritual washing of hands (with the water turning black, supposedly our negative energy being washed away). We sat at an elaborate seance table where we did some summoning of spirits, an experiment in automatic writing, and finally a full-on seance where he gave a long, rambling speech on the nature of "the creative spirit" that I admit went in one ear and out the other.

It was odd, a mixture of magic show and Wiccan ritual. (Yes, I have a legit frame of reference; in my checkered past I was actually the high priest of a Wiccan coven for a while.) London later admitted there were some illusions that were supposed to go off during the full seance that didn't, and there were some parts of the show that didn't seem to quite connect. London joked about how it was a late show and some things weren't going right, so I suppose that would explain that.

I'm not entirely sorry I went, but at the same time it wasn't what I was expecting; I had thought it would be more illusions and less psychodrama. I found some of the New Agey-ness about it off-putting, but that's just me. There was a time in my life when I was very, very into that sort of thing, but those days are long behind me now. Along with a lot of depression and instability. Those were dark days.

Maybe it's your thing, or someone else's thing, but it really wasn't mine. And that's not a dismissal of David London's talents or his work into this show. It's just that I'm really not the kind of audience he should have had.

The Creative Spirit Seance plays to audiences of 12, and runs until August 30th. Tickets are $40.

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