By DAVID KLEINMAN
For 21st Century Media
While it’s customary for most psychics and mediums to rouse an awaiting audience with warm introductions and lighthearted storytelling James Van Praagh takes the responsibility of entertaining his followers quite literally. He’ll start the evening by strutting his burly stuff on the hardwood stage just to make his audience smile.
“I guess I’m just a performer at heart,” he sighed. “If I didn’t have it I couldn’t get up on stage and do what I do.”
What Van Praagh does is very different from what he’d see himself doing in a second life or perhaps in a second act of his career.
In the era of Sylvia Browne and John Edwards, Van Praagh became one of pop culture’s most in-demand psychic mediums, specializing in serving as an intermediary connecting loved ones’ spirits in the afterlife to those still here on Earth.
Inspired by the works of Steven Sondheim, Van Praagh’s self-professed fantasy beyond his current day job is to star in a one-man show based on his life. He’s still searching for the right songs but he knows the plot like the back of his hand.
“People don’t really know I have a voice. They know about my spiritual work, and it may be about my spiritual work, but I would touch on life and the lessons I’ve learned and some things that I really want to do,” he said.
Act one would transport audiences back to his childhood home in Queens, New York to a young Van Praagh growing up in a “very Catholic religious background,” where he was the youngest of four siblings.
“I knew I was gay when I was young but I also got married to a woman,” he laughed. “Maybe I wasn’t as attracted to her as I was to guys but it was love, it was a karmic thing.”
“I would sing about believing in myself, from a young age I knew I was different in many aspects; whether it being gay, more sensitive or just more aware of people,” he said.
Van Praagh would also reenact the beginning inklings he recognized of his supernatural abilities.
“I used to see colors and lights around people and be very, very psychic. I would know things but to me it was very natural so I guess I’d talk a bit about my relationship with God.”
Despite the Catholic church’s unwavering stance on homosexuality Van Praagh strongly affirms his abilities are God-given. He even fancied himself joining the priesthood at an early age but that idea was nixed when he “fell in love with a brother as a kid.”
Act two of his creative production would deliver audiences to more of a present-day Van Praagh.
“I’d sing about my marriage of 20 years to my husband and its amazing experiences. Love is love is love, everyone should have love in their life.”
“I’d talk and sing about how I wish people would just realize everyone is connected, we’re all a little different. While we end up thinking we’re different from our experiences, every single part of us is valid”
Van Praagh continues to kick around ideas for his one-man show but for now he focuses his primary energies on his career in the supernatural.
His upcoming demonstration will feature the aforementioned dance introduction followed up with a dash of humor to continue to lighten the audience’s mood.
“People might come to these events unsure of the evening, they might be fearful from their religious background. I have to disarm the audience and then once I get the nervous energy away and open them up I can teach them about the other side.”
Once his audience is in good spirits Van Praagh details the events of the evening and speaks about his background working as a medium. This discussion is followed by a brief mediation and “taking a step into the spirit world, opening up to let the spirit work for me,” Van Praagh describes his process as communicating with the other side.
It’s a treat that Van Praagh reserves for his most receptive of audiences but if all goes as planned he’ll end the evening at the Keswick on a high note.
“I do sing occasionally, and it really is occasionally, but there might be a time at the end of the show where I end it with a song. It’s usually a song called ‘No One Is Alone by Steven Sondheim.’ It’s kind of a lullaby song and I have to say, I’m pretty good,” he said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: James Van Praagh
WHERE: Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 8.
TICKETS: $29, $39 & $59.
INFO.: Call (215) 572-7650 or check www.keswicktheatre.com.
CONNECT: On Twitter: @JamesVanPraagh