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Middletown man blends comedy, hypnotism for Smyrna show
SMYRNA — A rare opportunity awaits Oct. 7, as comedy hypnotist Marshal Manlove brings his act to The Smyrna Opera House for a performance designed to both amuse and amaze.
It’s uncommon to see this type of show, plus Mr. Manlove seldom performs in public.
“Most of my shows I do are actually privately booked. I don’t really do many publicly available shows and rarely here in Delaware,” said the Middletown resident. “When people want to go on vacation, they don’t stay home, right? They go someplace else. It’s kind of the same thing with an entertainer. So I do more shows out in Las Vegas than I’ve definitely done in Delaware. And, in this region, most of the time, I’m in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and the New England states.”
Mr. Manlove has been practicing the art of stage hypnosis since he saw a billboard near Philadelphia as a young athlete.
“I’m always looking for other things to do. I saw a billboard for a hypnosis school. And I’ve seen shows before, and I thought, ‘You know what? Maybe I can look into doing this.’ Long story short, I didn’t go to this particular school, but I developed the stage show, which I’ve been doing for about 17 years now professionally,” he said.
“It became a good thing because, when the economy crashed back in 2007 and 2008, and wiped out my Delaware sports business — running tournaments and that sort of stuff — fortunately, I had been doing shows for a couple of years and stuck with that.”
Mr. Manlove’s performances are strictly composed of people who choose to participate.
“The show is done with volunteers from the audience. I do just a little bit of an introduction to hypnosis. I do some demonstrations with people in the audience to see who makes a good candidate for hypnosis. Anybody is welcome to attend and come up on stage,” he said.
“How I name it is, I take people on a journey through their minds. And it’s all very visually driven to those who will participate. And then, for people who are watching, the reactions that people have while they’re hypnotized and things that they do is what becomes entertaining. Sometimes, it’s just the simplest things or the funniest things, as opposed to some things that might be more involved.”
He said part of the fun for him and the audience is the unexpected.
“Somebody might say something in response to something that’s happening that actually ends up being funnier than what the general outline is. So the unscripted moments are what become probably more interesting and entertaining to me anyway,” said Mr. Manlove, who also teaches hypnosis.
It can become a juggling act on stage, he added.
“There may be 20 people on stage, and they’re all reacting to different things. You have to monitor what everybody is doing in response to what you just asked them to do or experience — and then, at the same time, try to be entertaining,” he said.
“And then, when you see how everybody’s reacting, you have to figure out, ‘OK, that just worked. What can I do next with them?’ or ‘Why didn’t it work?’ And then, you try to respond and adjust quickly and, at the same time, try to crack a joke.”
Getting the right volunteers is key for Mr. Manlove, who said about 1 of 8 people are good candidates for stage hypnosis.
“You have to hope that their responses are funny, they’re animated, the reactions that they have to the journey that’s unfolding through their mind is entertaining to those who watch, and it’s a positive experience for those who are in it,” he said.
“Since I do the hypnotherapy, as well, I incorporate a whole lot of positive affirmations, so people leave relaxed. The relaxation part of it is refreshing for a lot of people who participate but also the ability for them to choose areas of their lives that they wish to improve, which is something I help them out with while they’re actually on stage.”
Certain types of individuals are better choices than others, he said.
“What it takes is somebody who’s a good visualizer or somebody who’s a creative thinker, creatively inclined. It’s not always the case. For some people who might think, ‘Well, you know, that guy is very analytical, very critical,’ that might be the way they know that person on a daily basis, but he still might be a good candidate,” Mr. Manlove said.
“But people who are actors are great. Artists, dancers, musicians, students are good because they’re used to having people talk to them and giving them instructions a lot of time. So it’s really a numbers game for me.”
Mr. Manlove said those being hypnotized and perhaps acting in a strange manner aren’t really doing things out of character.
“The friend might not think that Fred wouldn’t do that. But he might not know Fred all that well. Or what happens more frequently is that you hear, ‘Hey, Joe wouldn’t do that.’ But you are projecting that onto other people. So that’s kind of what I see, that people are gauging other people’s experience based on what they believe they would do or not do if they were in the same situation,” he said.
Mr. Manlove thinks the entertainment value of hypnotism is twofold.
“It generally falls into two different categories. People want to see their friends or family up there doing dumb things. And then, people are just curious about hypnosis in general because there’s some mystery involved with it,” he said.