Imagination never grows old

“Aging Magician” makes its world premiere at the Walker on Saturday.

Rinde Eckert performs as Harold in Aging Magician, which makes its premiere at the Walker Art Center this weekend.

Photo courtesy of Jill Steinberg

Rinde Eckert performs as Harold in “Aging Magician,” which makes its premiere at the Walker Art Center this weekend.

Danylo Loutchko

Sometimes artists become so involved in their work that the world of their imagination becomes more real than reality itself.
This is the fate of Harold, the main character of “Aging Magician.” He’s a watchmaker writing a graphic novel about a magician at the end of his life.
An odyssey of music and theater, “Aging Magician” — co-created by Paola Prestini, Rinde Eckert, Julian Crouch and Mark Stewart — makes its world premiere at the Walker Art Center this weekend. 
The story progresses as Harold becomes more and more lost in his imagination. The Aging Magician gets older and ends up on his deathbed. 
“[The story] allows us to meditate on the virtue of the ordinary. Magicians take ordinary objects and make them appear extraordinary, which is a really wonderful thing,” Eckert said, who wrote the story and performs as Harold. “So by extrapolation, we imagine that we ourselves are capable of transforming the ordinary, and we’re watching
Harold do just that with his ordinary life, and [he] turns it into this extraordinary matrix.” 
Harold periodically gets calls from his sister, taking him out of his musings, until there comes a point where the audience isn’t sure whether it’s Harold talking to them or the Aging Magician. 
The show culminates with the Aging Magician’s “ascension into heaven,” which appears to look a lot like Coney Island. This way, the audience leaves Harold “in the heaven of his imagination,” Eckert said. 
In addition to Harold, music is the other central element to “Aging Magician.” Eckert wrote the libretto, and composer Paola Prestini wrote the music itself.
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus and the ACME string quartet perform Prestini’s music along with Eckert’s vocal work, so “Aging Magician” becomes a kind of opera about
Harold’s imagination and solitude. The youth chorus functions in a similar way to a Greek chorus in ancient Greek theatre.
“I’m fascinated with how kids look at aging and death and having those be told through the eyes of kids,” Prestini said. “And the idea of children singing a requiem fascinated me.”
Prestini also drew influences from the score of the animated film “Triplets of Belleville” and some old Coney Island tunes —the playful music underscores the magical tone of Harold’s imagination. 
While not a full-out magic show, there are a few magic tricks. The creators felt that making it too showy distracted from the point of the piece — exploring Harold’s imagination.
“One of the themes of this is the image of the isolated artist,” Eckert said. “I’m also very fond of people who have a very specific job who aren’t actually famous or heroic.
There’s the idea of a very ordinary person with an interior life that’s magisterial. [Harold’s] interior life is very rich, and by extension, all our interior lives are much richer than we can actually express.”
“Aging Magician”
Where The Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
When 8 p.m. Saturday2 p.m. Sunday
Cost $28