Abracadabra and hocus pocus, Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre is set to have a magician appear Nov. 23.
The Comedy Magic of Mike is scheduled for two family-friendly performances that Saturday at BDACT’s Fine Arts Center.
Mike Schroeder of Oshkosh has been patiently waiting for a chance to bring his magic act to Beaver Dam for a number of years.
Schroeder is the nephew of Roger and Marilyn VanHaren, founding members of the community’s nonprofit theater group.
“I wanted to come 10 years ago but my aunt and uncle said the old theater wasn’t the right place because the stage was too small,” said Schroeder. “Then I got a call earlier this year from Annette (Kamps) saying the new stage is done and we’re ready for you.”
Kamps, another founding member of BDACT, said she is excited the new Fine Arts Center is branching out into acts beyond theatrical performances.
“We want this building to bring community members together to experience a large variety of performing arts, and we want people of all ages to enjoy live shows.”
Schroeder stepped onto the national stage in 2002, when he recreated Houdini’s Suspended Straightjacket Escape to officially unveil the Harry Houdini postage stamp. Soon thereafter, his magic act took off when he was invited to perform at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival. The Comedy Magic of Mike has performed hundreds of shows for many corporations and groups throughout the Midwest.
Schroeder said he got hooked on magic as a young boy after his parents took him to see professional magicians Doug Henning and David Copperfield.
“It was so cool and that’s when I knew that’s what I really wanted to do,” he said.
He began his professional career as part of two-man show.
“We were called The Comedy Magic of Mike and Chris and our tag line was, ‘Somewhere between Penn and Teller and Laurel and Hardy, you’ll find Mike and Chris,’” said Schroeder. “We’re like a Disney movie, we’re for all ages, good enough for young kids to come and see but jokes that adults will understand, nothing crude or vulgar.”
Schroeder’s partner had to step aside in 2004 due to an accident and Schroeder has been performing his solo act ever since.
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Kamps said she was searching for stage assistants for Schroeder’s show at the Fine Arts Center and some local theater veterans answered the call. Seth and Elisha Barudin, Bonnie Franke and Cody Lindau will be on hand to help with the vast array of illusions.
Schroeder said audiences can expect to see a disappearing ketchup bottle, a sword swallow, a newspaper prediction and other magic tricks.
One trick Schroeder will perform involves a bandana and a banana, and it holds great significance to him personally.
“The bandana routine was Uncle Roger’s favorite. He laughed until he cried on that thing. It will be hard to do it without him in the audience,” said Schroeder.
Roger VanHaren passed away Oct. 25 following a battle with cancer.
“He thought it was really cool and I plan on dedicating that part to him. The yellow bandana I will use on stage he gave to me,” said Schroeder. “He encouraged my work. He told me I make people laugh and forget their problems and enjoy themselves no matter what’s going on in their life and that was a real shot in the arm.”
Simple magic and corny jokes aside, Schroeder is a true escape artist influenced by Harry Houdini.
“I went to a dive instructor to learn how to breathe and how to deal with panic. I will attempt the Cube of Death, which involves trying to escape a two and a half foot cube filled with 48 gallons of water while I’m in shackles,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder will also attempt to escape from a strait jacket.
“I don’t have a death wish. There’s lots and lots of training that goes into this,” he said.
Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre is offering both adult and youth ticket prices for The Comedy Magic of Mike performances in order to encourage families to attend together.
Follow Kelly Simon on Twitter @KSchmidSimon or contact her at 920-356-6757.