State Fair

California State Fair crowds fall under this hypnotist’s spell

Tina Marie’s act at the California State Fair puts people to sleep. And that’s a good thing.

A self-described “master hypnotist,” Marie, 54, performs three times a day in the amphitheater at the Expo Center. Under her influence, willing volunteers fall asleep, sing and dance like Bruno Mars and yell “Who’s your daddy?” at imaginary rats – all in front of an incredulous crowd.

“I say (hypnosis) is kind of like having a few drinks,” Marie said. “You allow me to take you through a state of relaxation techniques, then once I get you there you become so relaxed that you don’t care what you’re doing.”

Believers and doubters have one more day to catch her show. Marie performs at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. on the PG&E stage through Sunday.

After selecting people from the crowd, Marie begins the show by asking volunteers to take several deep breaths, bringing them to a state of meditation and relaxation. Soothing music plays as her assistant and boyfriend, Steve Poncar, gives each person a shoulder shake to loosen bodies.

Watching for rapid eye movement and feeling their pulse, Marie gathers a sense of who’s relaxed and who’s not. “The ones that don’t go under, I send them out,” she says.

At a recent Wednesday evening show, the 22 volunteers on stage were given different suggestions from Marie. By raising her hand, she caused some women in the group to think their backsides were falling off. One man was prompted to think a huge rat was running across the stage. The audience’s laughter seemed to have no effect on the hypnotized group.

Marie also used a trigger word to make some volunteers think their seats were shocking them. “I could have sworn I felt it and jumped up and was mad at the seat for having shocked me,” said volunteer Tessa Harvey, 20, who lives in Sacramento.

Folsom resident Andrew Woodward, 16, looked as if he was in a different state than the other volunteers. During the show’s closing, Woodward fainted on stage while attempting an impersonation of Bruno Mars performing his song “Uptown Funk.”

“I already knew I was having a situation when he kept going under in the chair,” Marie said. “I knew I had to be watchful of him and to keep him awake.”

After he fainted, Marie escorted him off the stage to wake him up. “I … told him that he was going to have a great time today, come to and wake him up even more sharpened,” she explained.

Marie said she is used to skepticism. Many fairgoers have asked her if the selected volunteers are planted in the audience and are acting. “To answer your question – ‘Is hypnosis real?’ It is very real,” Marie said.

Some people believe that weak-minded people are more susceptible to hypnosis, Marie said, However, she contends the opposite is true. “The more intelligent somebody is, the easier it is for them to go under hypnosis,” she said.

Three components are needed to undergo hypnosis: focus, concentration and open-mindedness, Marie said. “Imagine you’re in front of thousands of people. You’ve got so many things going through to you that you have to be able to push through that to be able to go under.”

A Texas native, Marie said she knew from an early age that hypnotism was the career for her. When she’s not performing, she sells hypnosis CDs to help people with quitting smoking, losing weight and gaining self-confidence.

“I will always add (hypnosis suggestions) in my shows for everyone to have more confidence,” Marie said. “If I can at least affect one person at a time and get them to pay it forward, I think that’s great.”

Speaking of confidence, Marie, who previously worked as a live infomercial spokeswoman, clearly has no trouble performing in front of the large crowds. In addition to the fair, she also performs hypnosis at corporate shows, birthday parties and school events.

“I’ve always been in the public eye, but not on a grand scale like (the California State Fair),” she said. “To me this is big.”