by Erica Valen
The 2016 Rogue Festival is almost here. KRL will be featuring several Festival performer preview articles (starting with this one), plus an article on Rogue 2016 itself in the next couple of weeks. We will also be reviewing many of the shows once the Festival begins in early March. Check out our Rogue Performer event page for more information as it becomes available, and you can also check out the Rogue 2016 website.
Keith and I grew up on opposite sides of the country – he in the Los Angeles suburbs, and I in rural Pennsylvania. We didn’t know it at the time, but we shared an obsession: scaring our friends and the other kids in the neighborhood with the most elaborate haunted houses we could create. Keith’s uncle Bob lost both his legs in the Korean War, so Keith had a huge advantage: Uncle Bob would lie on an “operating table” with hamburger meat strewn from his stumps, a manic look in his eye, and no qualms about making the suburban kids pee their pants. My haunted houses took place in the woods in my backyard. I’d spend weeks preparing and the theme was always the same: witches and satanic ceremony. It was great fun, even though no one really “got it,” and I scared myself more than I did the neighbors.
When Keith and I first met at a silent meditation retreat in Northern California, the first thing we talked about (when we were finally allowed to talk) was that haunted houses have the potential to be the best form of entertainment, and how they could be a completely immersive and utterly astonishing experience which would take the participants to strange new worlds. Most haunts cash in on simple “pop out” scares – actors in latex masks and guys jumping out with chain saws. We were drawn to the mind-blowing experience, where the rug gets pulled out from under you, and you’re left wondering if the spirit world has come into your mind and altered your reality forever.
The second thing we talked about was magic. Keith was just six when he first saw Doug Henning’s World of Magic on TV, and to this day Henning is his magic role model. Keith vividly recalled the childlike enthusiasm Henning brought to his performances – it really felt like he BELIEVED, and that made all the difference.
I was drawn to a different kind of magic. When I was a kid, I had the coolest baby sitter. She’d always wear layers of torn lace and multiple shawls, and she told me she had a shrine to Stevie Nicks in her closet. I idolized her. She read my tarot cards every time she came over, and gave me my first tarot deck when I turned eight. I studied those cards for an hour every day, hoping to impress her. Eventually, I found the magic in them and I’ve been studying the obscure arts ever since.
Keith’s and my meeting at the meditation retreat felt like kismet. After all, we were both seeking the heart of the mystical experience, and we both loved magic and haunted houses! What could possibly stop us from finding enlightenment and transforming the world? That was 22 years ago…Some of the highlights of our quest include:
Summers spent at amusement parks doing magic shows and meditating between sets; Moving to NYC and living in a basement with the intention of making a living as street performers; Realizing how hard street performing is, and my becoming a professional fortune teller to support our street performing “education.”
Going back to Los Angeles and living in our pickup truck, where we’d street perform by day and visit the Magic Castle in Hollywood each night.
Eventually, we broke into the corporate entertainment market and performed on cruise ships and at parties for wealthy people. The day we worked a bar mitzvah where they turned an entire floor of the Four Seasons into an amusement park was the day we realized we were back where we started, but without the time for meditation. We quit, got jobs and spent the next ten years working nine-to-fives and dreaming about magic…
A few years ago, Keith and I began performing again. Variety shows and small theaters were great for honing our weird new material; when we discovered fringe festivals, they turned out to be the perfect vehicles for pushing the envelope of how creative the performance of magic can be. We still plan on opening a mind-melting haunted house someday, but in the meantime, our current show, Mysterium, fills the void.
Our goal with Mysterium is to put the wonder and mystery back into the performance of magic. It’s about sharing an unforgettable experience which leaves everyone with a sense of having been part of something very special. We hope to share it with you!
What: The Mysterium Show: An evening of elegant supernatural entertainment
Featuring: Keith Boudreau and Erica Valen
Where: Dianna’s Studio of Dance, 826 N Fulton St, Fresno, CA 93728
When: March 5, 6, 9, 11 and 12 (see www.MysteriumShow.com for times)