A night of wonder with magician Carl Seiger

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PITTSFIELD — You won't see anyone sawed in half when magician Carl Seiger performs.

The Berkshires native prefers going big by playing small; up close and personal, even in a 520-seat venue. That's where you'll find him Friday and Saturday evening when he brings his new show, "An Evening of Magic with Carl Seiger," to Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage.

"I can appreciate the big magic, like sawing someone in half," he said over a cup of medium roast coffee early one weekday morning at a North Street eatery. "I've seen a lot of magicians with their big boxes, which they wheel around and it becomes the focus of the show. I want the audience to give me the credit for what happens on stage, not a big box."

So, where the David Copperfields and David Blaines of the magic world go boldly with theatrical illusions, Seiger works the sleight-of-hand arena of cards, buttons, rings, earrings; coins; a glass of wine; rope; a wedding ring.

"I love the interaction with the audience," the 57-year-old self-taught magician said. "I don't want a big box script. I love to be able to work off the audience. I don't see the audience as additional props.

"You never know what an audience will do, so you have to be prepared to roll with it."

While you can find him working private functions, corporate events and cabaret settings — no kids' birthday parties, please, "I'm not a child's magician," he says — Seiger is no stranger to the theater. Suitable for audiences age 14 and older, "An Evening of Magic with Carl Seiger" was created in 2014 at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, Fla., and reportedly sold out all 32 performances. To achieve intimacy at Barrington Stage, he is using cameras and a big screen on stage so audiences can see not only his work close-up but also the reactions of the various audience volunteers with whom he works over the course of the show.

"People.will be able to see what I'm doing and they'll be able to see me," Seiger said. "This [use of video technology] is so common and normal these days."

Seiger — who lives in Tyringham with his wife and business manager, Maura, and holds a regular day job in the civil process division of the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office — has been doing sleight-of-hand ever since, as a kid, he and a cousin got their hands on a magic set Seiger's mother had bought as a Christmas present for his cousin's 5-year-old brother.

"We basically dismantled the set and divided it between us," he said.

Seiger got the cards. "I was 11 then."

His first performance was not especially auspicious.

Seiger's father, Charles — Charlie to the community — was Egremont's chief of police for 20 years. At the 1975 Egremont Policeman's Ball, Charlie, who was emceeing, called on his caught-unawares son to come up and perform.

"I disappeared a large bowl of water," Seiger said somewhat sheepishly. "I was in my early teens. It's hard to perform when you don't expect it. I was too young; too inexperienced."

By his own reckoning, Seiger is a perfectionist; relentless for detail. He's not about invention. he will tweak, reconsider, shift things a bit, polish, master his craft and showmanship.

"There probably are only anywhere from 13 to 17 effects," he said. "There's really nothing new under the sun."

He's a voracious reader and studies DVDs. He's a keen student of magic's history and traditions, especially the writings of Dai Vernon, a Canadian magician and sleight of hand master who died in August 1992 at the age of 98.

"Among the things he stressed in performing were naturalness and being yourself," Seiger said.

It's a lesson he's taken to heart.

"You learn the fundamentals. You start to figure things out, your presentation, but it has to all come from me," he says. "It's important to try and get me across the footlights; [make] that connection with the audience."

For Seiger magic is a vehicle. It's all about wonder; recapturing the wonder of youth.

He will cite Webster's definition of wonder — "the feeling of surprise, admiration, and awe, aroused by something strange, unexpected, incredible; to feel amazement, marvel" — and say, simply, "I think people like that feeling."

Reach Jeffrey Borak at 413-496-6212


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