WOOD RIVER JCT. — In the midst of all the chaos and discomfort caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Chariho alumna Caroline Horsman and her husband, Spencer, treated members of the Chariho Theatre Company to a virtual magic show on a recent Wednesday night that coincided with the last day of distance learning for the Chariho students.
The Horsmans pride themselves in the expertise of magical illusions and are also co-owners of Illusions Bar and Theatre in Baltimore, Md. Caroline, originally from Hope Valley, was heavily involved in the Chariho theater program in high school, graduated from Chariho in 2005, and is now a professional actress and magician.
Her husband grew up surrounded by magic in Baltimore and is now most notable for his dangerous, Houdini-like escapes on the TV show “America’s Got Talent” as well as his performances alongside renowned magicians such as David Copperfield and Criss Angel.
Although the couple had to halt in-person performances at their Baltimore venue in mid-March due to the pandemic, they have recently started to enchant virtual audiences with remote performances focused on magic and storytelling.
“The pandemic has definitely shifted everything to an online format,” Caroline said. “Ultimately, we need to shift with the times. It's just causing us to shift us a little bit faster than we would have otherwise.”
Caroline felt that the Chariho theater program was a place where she found herself, and she thought that a virtual performance would be a great way to give back to the program that got her started.
“I was the weird kid growing up and I didn't have a concept of community until I came across the theater program, and it really helped me solidify who I was,” Caroline said. “It was so incredibly important to do something for the theater students.”
On the recent Wednesday, a handful of members from the Chariho Theatre Company logged onto the web-based meeting platform Zoom and awaited what the two magicians had in store. The performance began with Caroline appearing out of a mysterious box and then included card tricks, an at-home magic trick, and even a séance that rattled a set of metal pans, as well as a question-and-answer session.
Chariho sophomore Christian Sullivan, of Richmond, was impressed by the performers’ ability to modify their magic routine to fit the virtual environment.
“I’m impressed at not only their performance but the way they were able to adapt to our current circumstances,” Sullivan noted. “It shows real dedication to the craft, and I love to see that in show business.”
Sophomore Elaine Sumner, of Charlestown, was inspired to see a Chariho graduate who has pursued a career in the performing arts.
“As a fellow performer, I was nervous that being from a small town in Rhode Island would make it even more difficult to pursue a career in the performing arts,” Sumner said. “To hear from a performer that graduated from Chariho gives me confidence in myself and my abilities.”
Chariho theater director Rebecca Burns, who coordinated the virtual magic show, said the show provided a delightful end to the challenging semester, which has been virtual since mid-March.
“The Chariho Theatre Company members have been working so hard and adapting so well — they definitely deserved a nice surprise,” Burns said. “I think the arts are especially bringing people together, with all the virtual concerts and streamed events.”
Burns said that she is also proud to show her student performers an example of how a former Chariho student had pursued a career in the performing arts.
“Through this magic show, I hope students are inspired by how Caroline was able to make a career out of her passion for the arts,” Burns said. “But more importantly, I hope they learn the importance of giving back and using their talents selflessly to bring joy to others.”