Beyond Svengali: Contemporary Stage Hypnosis Performance Techniques

Cynthia D. Stroud


Stage hypnotists are regularly booked in comedy clubs and on college campuses, as well as for private parties, schools, and corporate team-building activities. In this popular entertainment genre, hypnotists invite audience volunteers onstage, lead them through a procedure designed to induce hypnosis, and then guide them through a variety of performance activities. Many of these volunteers quickly and comfortably give extraordinarily uninhibited performances, singing, dancing, doing celebrity impressions, and participating in complex group improvisations. This paper explores the types of performance activities engaged in by volunteers, some similarities between the techniques stage hypnotists employ to evoke these performances and contemporary psychophysical actor training, and the possible implications that such similarities might suggest for actor training programs. Research data sources include stage hypnosis performances, interviews with volunteer performers, and training manuals for aspiring stage hypnotists. Cynthia D. Stroud teaches theatre and performance studies courses in the Department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University. Her work has been published inTheatre Journal, Youth Theatre Journal, The Electronic Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, and The Projector. Her primary research focus is the contemporary practice of stage hypnosis.

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303