Doug and The Washington Post: Part Three

“The Spellbound World of Doug Henning”
By Richard Harrington
June 9, 1982

The Heir to Houdini

Henning is spending this week at Merriweather Post Pavilion with one of the last road shows he’ll be doing for a while. All his time and energy are going into “Merlin,” which he describes as a 6-year-old project about “a young man who becomes enlightened and gains control over the laws of nature, finds a disciple named Arthur and brings in the age of enlightenment when he pulls the sword from the stone.”

Set for a November opening at the Alvin Theater on Broadway, the $4 million production will feature music by Elmer Bernstein, sets by Robin Wagner, and direction by Frank Dunlop. Henning says it will be quite different from “The Magic Show,” which started out with illusions and had a thin plot written around it. “In ‘Merlin,’ the magic will be organic, it will flow, will motivate and be motivated by the plot and end up with a huge battle between white and black magic.”It will feature some of the best effects we’ve ever invented. There’s one illusion that’ll knock everybody’s socks off, one that hasn’t been done for many years where a girl visibly vanishes on the stage into nothing– away from all props.”

Henning feels it’s a play whose time has come as entertainment continues to move away from a base of violence and sex. “People are looking for happiness and the first place they look is the imagination, which is why there’s the huge resurgence of fantasy and magic. But the real happiness is inside ourselves, in a harmony with ourselves and nature. Magic reflects the fantasy aspect, but it reflects this other aspect, as well.”

As the popular successor to Houdini, it was fitting that Henning be given access several years ago to many of Houdini’s secrets. While writing a book on those tricks, Henning “learned a very interesting thing: Houdini was a great seeker. He was obsessed with the fact that there was more to life than his senses could tell him. He wanted to conquer death, so he tried everything. Everybody thought he had a death wish; he didn’t. He was an incredible spiritualistic seeker, but he had nowhere to look; he was looking outside himself instead of inside himself.”

For those who still look outside, Henning has a stunning show. For those stagehands and technicians who actually work with Henning, there is a secrecy contract. “It’s a friendly agreement,” he explains. ” ‘If you tell the magic, you’re spoiling it for your friends, you’re taking the wonder away and they’ll never enjoy the magic again, so don’t go spoiling . . . also, this is a legal contract . . .’ And nobody has ever told.”

Well, there you have it! Finding this great article just goes to show you that there are still treasures to be found in the vast abyss that is Google Search!

See you next time!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Houdini the seeker. Very nice and true words from Doug.

    Liked by 1 person

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