An award-winning mindreader plans to launch his upcoming solo performance tour with a show in Gibsons that turns commonplace games into uncanny feats of insight.
Sunshine Coast resident Eric Samuels is an international touring mentalist and corporate speaker. In 2019, he appeared on the television series Penn & Teller: Fool Us to challenge the Las Vegas magicians with an original feat of mental manipulation. Last fall he appeared locally in two sold-out shows alongside noted magician and fellow Sunshine Coast resident Bro Gilbert.
When creating material for his new solo show, Samuels found inspiration in forms of competitive play he has enjoyed since childhood.
“Mind Games is sort of a creatively-twisted look at the role that games have played in our lives: board games, gambling games, puzzles, electronic games,” he said. “With me it was almost an obsession at times and those are some of the stories I tell. Because of who I am and what it is that I do as a mentalist, I’m going to bend more than a few rules of the games.”
Samuels, a former broadcaster, in 2021 received the Dan Blackwood Award from the Psychic Entertainers Organization for his outstanding contributions to the art of mentalism.
The Mind Games performance will play at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons on Oct. 13. It represents a new stage of development for Samuels’s onstage persona. Historically, he was reluctant to shine the spotlight too brightly on his own autobiography, preferring instead to dazzle audiences with deft demonstrations that capitalized on his knowledge of human behaviour and psychology.
When reflecting on his formative relationship with gameplay, he realized it was time to roll the dice and write himself into the narrative.
“I’m enthusiastically dipping my toe into the deep end and exposing a little more about my backstory,” Samuels said, “in a way that I hope is relatable and compelling to the audience.”
In an earlier performance series titled Acts of Astonishment, Samuels prompted spectators to reconsider their perceptions of reality. It’s a theme he explores frequently in the corporate keynote presentations he delivers across North America. But after spying an ironic bumper sticker (“No one’s mind has ever been changed by a bumper sticker”), he changed his mind to focus on feel-good entertainment marinated in laughter.
Samuels formerly hosted jazz shows across Canada. He learned a lesson in showmanship when introducing a performance by American jazz guitarist Pat Metheny for an audience of 10,000 people at Toronto’s Ontario Place. The night before, Metheny played for a crowd ten times bigger during a free concert in downtown Montreal.
“It was amazing,” recalled Samuels. “He was already too big for this, but in the entertainment business you can’t get used to last night’s show. I’ve done corporate gigs getting treated like royalty, then the next night my mic doesn’t work and the stage lighting is two floodlights.”
As he prepares for the debut of his Mind Games appearances, Samuels continually refines its content. An hour before his Coast Reporter interview, he reworked an entire section — news that was met with a nonplussed shrug by his partner Michelle. Invention and reinvention are routine, he explained: “I think this is legitimately the subconscious at work in the creative process.”
Mind Games by Eric Samuels appears at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons on Oct. 13. Tickets ($30) are available through EventBrite local listings.