I am very pleased to announce that POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC has been chosen as an official finalist for the Outside the Box Film Festival to be held in Bakersfield, CA (November 7-9, 2014). This is our first letter of acceptance so we are all very excited!
On Wednesday, Cindy and I took the train from our home to New York City. I was scheduled to be a guest on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson on the Fox News Channel. Gretchen is a strong advocate for the arts and a national celebrity spokesperson for the March of Dimes.
She has always been an avid supporter of our work with individuals with disabilities. I was invited to talk about my work in the autism community and the importance of the arts in helping improve some of the skills they find challenging. You can watch the interview by clicking the image below.
At the beginning of the interview, she played a portion of my short documentary, Powerful Medicine: Simply Magic. The film was completed in July and premiered in Portugal at the Division of International Special Education and Services Conference (DISES) in Braga. In the last few days, we’ve made the film available to the public. You can watch it HERE.
After the interview, Cindy and I decided we would spend the afternoon seeing some of the sights of the City…and I ran into the greatest super hero(s) of all time!
One of the most emotional and inspiring adventures was our visit to the 911 Museum located at Ground Zero in New York. This was an experience we will never forget. Pictures simply cannot capture what we encountered within the walls of the building…but here are a few we can share.
On Sunday, August 17, one of our dearest friends passed from this world to the next. She was a remarkable woman - passionate, caring, funny, charming, and delightful.
We first met Joanie almost 20 years ago when she was still working with the David Copperfield show. Cindy and I were on the road and bought tickets to see the show in Savannah, GA. While sitting in the park outside the Johnny Mercer Theatre, Joanie came out of the building to walk the dogs that were a feature in David’s. Her approachable manner made it easy for us to strike up a conversation…and we did. We discovered her love for animals and the joy she received in caring for them.
We first started working with Joanie in 1999 when we hired her to direct a new illusion in our show. It was the beginning of a professional relationship that lasted 15 years and transformed our production. From that moment on, not a single illusion made it to the stage without Joanie’s direction. Her reputation preceded her and those first rehearsals were long, sometimes grueling and always productive. Her expertise helped to move us to the next level of performance. She taught us how to touch not only our audience’s inquisitive minds, but their hearts as well. Joanie was someone who cared deeply about people and saw great potential in everyone; not merely as performers, but as individuals. By helping you become a better performer, she also allowed you to discover things about yourself, to find your inner strength and confidence. Everyone with whom she worked was not only a better performer. Each was a better person.
What took us by surprise was the personal relationship that we developed in such a short period of time. Over those 15 years, we spent a lot of time together – personally and professionally. There are so many stories, memories, moments that make us laugh…and cry. She was remarkable – an extraordinary woman who touched everyone with whom she came in contact. We were privileged to know her and to have the opportunity to benefit from her passion. Her impact on the art of magic will probably never fully be realized or recognized. She elevated our art to new levels and for those who knew her well, she also elevated our lives. We miss her already and our hearts are broken.
This Blog has been a “work in progress” over several weeks, bits and pieces pulled together from Istanbul, Tanzania, Uganda, Cairo and, finally, on a train from Braga, Portugal to Lisbon. I am now at home in Virginia after an adventure that I still haven’t had the time to fully process. For 8 weeks, I traveled through 20 cities in 8 countries on 4 continents speaking at conferences, teaching educators, and working with vulnerable children in developing countries (extensively in Uganda). I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe this entire experience…and each time I try, I am completely overwhelmed by emotion. I do know this, there’s no way I could return to the USA and be the same person I was before I left. Those 8 weeks had a profound impact on me as a person, an artist and a member of our global society.
I wasn’t working alone in Uganda. A group of seven artists and educators formed a team we call SHOTS – taking a shot at changing the world through Service, Hope, Optimism, Teamwork, and Sustainability. This is a remarkable group of people and I’m proud to be associated with each one of them. Thank you Susan for your vision!
Over a period of 4 weeks, I was privileged to team up with Susan O’Rourke (Carlow University, PA) and participate in Professional Development training for literally hundreds of educators instructing them on arts-integrated techniques for teaching students of all abilities in their classroom. I also had the privilege of connecting with more than 10,000 children…I can’t even begin to describe the experience!
The month of June started in Akita, Japan with a presentation on the impact learning magic tricks can have in the development of pragmatic and social communication skills with English Second Language (ESL/ELL) learners. This presentation was based on an on-going research project being implemented in Ogden, UT within the city school district. Using the Hocus Focus curriculum, we are determining the potential benefits that using magic tricks can have on increasing language skills in ESL students.
Educators in the field of Language Studies gathered from all over the world for this conference. I joined a colleague from Weber State University, Melina Alexander, and our presentation was well received. As a result, we are exploring other possible research projects to develop this aspect of Hocus Focus more fully.
July ended in Braga, Portugal at the Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES) Conference. Working again with Susan O’Rourke from Carlow University in Pittsburgh (and immediate past-president of DISES), we made two presentations – one on The Magical Benefits of a Technology-mediated Arts Curriculum and another on Working with Vulnerable Children in Post-Conflict Uganda.
In the weeks between Japan and Portugal, I traveled thru Asia, Europe, and Africa. The experience was life changing, overwhelming, and emotional.
One of the many highlights of this trip was sharing it with one of my special friends, Mike Thompson – and the opportunity to meet and work with Kyle Holbrook. He is an amazing artist and the founder of Moving the Lives of Kids Forward Community Mural Project (the MLK Mural Project). His work can be seen all over the world in some of the toughest neighborhoods in major urban areas. Kyle designed a mural for the Bright Kids Uganda orphanage in Entebbe. Combining his mural with a little bit of magic, we spent three days giving a voice to vulnerable children that can still be heard through the images they created on this mural and the stories they told through their magic. It was a time of teamwork, creativity, and expression. Ultimately, the experience was about empowering vulnerable youth through art education – whether it’s visual art (the mural) or performance art (the magic).
Another memorable moment was working with the Teso Tribe in the village of Opucet, literally translated “the village of peace.” The SHOTS team worked hand-in-hand with the tribe to lay the foundation for an inclusive school that will educate all children in the area. Check out this welcome dance!
At the end of our time together, they brought me before the elders of the tribe and gave me a new name, Emural. In the Ateso language, it represents “the one who is a symbol of our clan and expands our borders.” There is a lot of responsibility connected with a name like that!
If you want to “experience” a portion of my UGANDA ADVENTURE, you can watch this presentation:
POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC
The world premiere of my short documentary – POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC – took place in Portugal on July 17 at the DISES Conference. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre as an audience of more than 400 watched and responded with a standing ovation.
Powerful Medicine: Simply Magic explores the transformational benefits of the art of illusion in bringing about authentic and meaningful changes in the lives of individuals with different abilities. The film gives a compelling voice to those whom are “different” reminding all of us that they are remarkable people capable of doing extraordinary things. These voices urge us to acknowledge that their futures are often molded by our attitudes and perceptions about them. As a global society, we must start appreciating what they can do and stop focusing on what we believe they can’t do. You can check out the trailer HERE:
In September, I am planning a national media blitz with several appearances on the FOX News channel in NYC. And I have already begun submitting the film to various international film festivals.
Everyone who supports people with disabilities is, in some way, an advocate for their best interests. The international conversation about disability issues has been taking place for years but change – real change – must happen in the hearts and minds of ordinary people, not merely in policy and law. You and I can raise awareness of international disability issues, change people’s perceptions and attitudes, and provide opportunities for individuals with different abilities to share in the global society. If you agree that we can’t stay where we are on this issue, then I hope you’ll be a part of looking for a better way forward. You can start by joining us on Facebook!
FLINT HILLS SUMMER MAGIC CAMP
During the months of June and July, more than 80 kids enrolled in the Flint Hills Summer Magic Camp in Manhattan, KS. This was the pilot program for an on-going research project to evaluate the benefits of learning magic tricks on executive function and communication skills of children on the autism spectrum and with ADHD.
As August began, Eli and I drove to Oxford, Ohio to conduct Magic Camp at the Miami University of Ohio – more on that camp next time!
Our website was “hacked” and this post was lost. Here it is again as a PDF: WHERE HAVE I BEEN? « Spencers Magic
Hi All – so sorry that I haven’t posted for quite some time! My internet has been “limited” (that’s an understatement) for the last few weeks. Since my last post – Akita, Japan – I’ve been in 20 cities in 8 countries on 4 continents over 7 weeks! Needless to say, my body clock is a bit off!
As I write this, I’m sitting in the Charlotte airport waiting for my flight home. I’ve been in Manhattan, KS following up on the Flint Hills Summer Magic Camp program. These are amazing kids and I’m so proud to have been a part of their summer adventure with the Hocus Focus program! Brian Strole was my “boots on the ground” magic teacher for the entire 8 weeks of the camp and he did an outstanding job! The entire team from KSU and Flint Hills Summer Camp made magic this summer for about 80 incredible kids!
Here are just a few photos of the final performance – enjoy!
The conference officially ended today (Sunday) at 12noon. I was able to squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing before I need to catch my next flight on Monday back to Tokyo and on to Istanbul. The first stop – coffee at Tully’s!
The pastry item next to my “honey milk latte” is a ham and gooey cheese thing. :-) It was very good and inside, yes there was gooey cheese!
After some food, were were off to explore the area. First stop was a little shopping area where I could pick up a souvenir for my office that would remind me of Akita. Next, we were going to go to the Art Museum. As we approached the plaza, we could hear chanting and singing. As it turns out, Japan was playing in the World Cup today so there were hundreds of fans watching the game on a giant television screen on the side of one of the buildings. They were pretty excited! This is me with one of the “cheerleaders” of the group…
There are statues and artistic representations of the Namahage everywhere. He is considered the “protector” of Akita but the tradition dates back hundreds of years. Here are a few of the ones I liked:
As we walked through some of the shops, it became very clear that the Japanese are very creative and will invent (or sell) almost anything like this toilet game…
or these brushes to clean your dishes…
And so many choices for snacks…
But there were a few familiar things as well…
The last stop of the day was a walk through Akita City Park. This is a beautiful space in the heart of the city. I took a lot of photos but wanted to share these….enjoy.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll take the bus back to Akita Airport and fly to Haneda Tokyo Airport…and then transfer to Narita International Airport. My flight for Istanbul leaves in the evening and I should arrive there at 5am! I’m sure I will be totally rested
After a few days at home, it was time to hit the road again – this time by plane. I’m heading off on an amazing 7-week adventure that will take me to 11 cities in 9 countries….and countless airports. The first stop was Akita, Japan to present at the International Society for Language Studies. I left Lynchburg for Charlotte, NC…to London, UK…to Istanbul, Turkey…to Tokyo, Japan. Once I arrived in Narita International Airport in Tokyo, I had to transfer to Haneda Airport (about an hour away) in order to catch my flight to Akita. After getting to Haneda Airport, I spent a very short night in a local hotel before continuing on to Akita…unfortunately, it was incredibly difficult to find the place and I walked the street by Kamato Station for nearly an hour before finding the hotel only 1.5 blocks from the train station.
The hotel itself was very nice but I was shocked by the small size of the room – only a bed and an incredibly tiny bathroom. It’s a good thing I’m a little guy!
I have to confess that, after flying for 40 hours I was exhausted but totally unable to fall asleep. I just laid in the bed thinking about what time I needed to get up. I finally dozed off for about 3 hours before my alarm woke me to head to the airport for that last flight. Thankfully, Haneda has a Starbucks!
It’s very quick flight to Akita from Tokyo so I was on the ground and at my hotel in less than 2 hours. Unfortunately, the hotel wouldn’t allow me to check in before 2pm so I stored my luggage and started out on the search for food. There are tons of things to do and to eat close to the hotel and this was an opportunity to explore.
This are is close to the Akita Train Station so there are lots of restaurants and shopping areas close by.
The art museum is just up a couple of blocks. This big warrior is outside of the building to promote one of the exhibitions taking place there. I couldn’t help but get a picture!
I met up with a colleague from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana (who is also attending the conference) and we were able to track down some food in a nice, affordable restaurant decorated in 50′s USA movie memorabilia and USA license plates. The food was great – spicy ra-men noodles with sesame!
After lunch, we had killed enough time to get into a a hotel room…I was looking forward to this! I dropped off my bags, jumped into a very hot shower and let the water run over my body. It felt fantastic!! I stayed in the room for the rest of the day to try and get some rest and to see if I could FaceTime with Cindy. We hadn’t spoken for a few days and I really wanted to hear her voice and see her face.
Later in the evening, I was on a quest to find some chocolate milk before calling it a night and going to bed. I found a “7-11″ type store called Sunkiss only a couple of blocks away. I bought was I THOUGHT was chocolate milk but I was fooled! The brown carton and cow that “suggested” chocolate milk were actually more symbolic of the “coffee milk” that was inside the carton! Definitely NOT what I was expecting!!
After finally falling asleep, I was up early the next morning for the first day of the International Society For Language Studies (ISLS) Conference being hosted by Aikita International University. Higher Education professionals and those who are involved in linguistics and communication were in attendance.
The conference was off to a very good start. Following the opening session, there were dozens of 30 minute sessions being offered for the remainder of the day…and over the next 3 days. I presented with a friend and colleague, Melina Alexander, from Weber State University in Utah. Our presentation was on the use of magic tricks to motivate second language learners to develop and improve their interpersonal and pragmatic language skills. The presentation was very well received and I believe I made some positive connections for the future.
Now that the pressure was off, I would be able to enjoy the next three days of this conference. I attended several presentations – some of them were fascinating and interesting but there were a couple that seemed bit more controversial and “out there.” Still, it was an interesting and challenging conference that provided me with some great insights into the world of “language studies.”
Once again, that night I was back at the “7-11″ for some late night snacks…and this time I bought ice cream. I thought I was buying a very traditional ice cream sandwich; in fact, I was buying something much more! Two layers of vanilla ice cream separated by a thin chocolate bar and sandwiched between to very think waffles – amazing!
After a very successful tour on the West Coast in April, we made our way to the East Coast to close out our Spring 2014 performances. One of the many highlights was a trip to Maine. What a privilege to work on the stage of the Collins Center…and Maine in the spring is beautiful. The photo above was clicked while I was hanging out with some wild black bears….
In May, Cindy and I were incredibly humbled to be featured on the pages of the oldest magic publication in the world, THE LINKING RING. During its ninety years, it has evolved from a four-page mimeographed publication to a professionally printed and internationally distributed journal. It has documented the most significant events in the art of magic over the past nine decades, traced the rise to fame of the “greats” in magic, and enabled magicians all over the world to exchange ideas. We were featured on the cover in 1998 and now, some 16 years later, I am honored to be on the cover again. The article gives a “behind the scenes” glimpse at our production and in-depth coverage of the Healing of Magic and Hocus Focus projects.
Summer is here and, as I write this, I’m sitting in Heathrow International Airport in London waiting for my next flight to Istanbul continuing on to Japan. There, I’ll be presenting with Melina, a friend of mine from Weber State University (UT) at the International Society for Language Studies conference. We will be talking about the benefits of learning magic tricks to help second language learners develop interpersonal and pragmatic language skills. It’s the first stop of a 7-week adventure that will take me to 11 cities in 9 countries to work with children with special needs and to train educators and healthcare professionals on arts integrated interventions. Look for updates here!
Some of the most exciting moments in learning are grounded in the unexpected and the engaging. And that’s what makes magic such a great teaching tool! I have been a part of some exciting research over the last 5 years, some of which was quoted this month in an interesting article from BUILDING CREATIVE BRIDGES (http://newsle.com/article/0/143481342/), an organization directed by Paul Signorelli, a San Francisco-based writer, trainer, presenter, social media strategist, learning advocate and consultant.
I started the month of May in Manhattan, KS working with the incredible team from Kansas State University and McCain Auditorium in preparation for one of the most exciting and comprehensive arts-integrated Autism and ADHD research projects that has ever been undertaken. Thanks to the great work of the people who started and oversee the Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp, 80 special campers will be transported to the world of “Magic Camp” where magic tricks will be combined with the camp’s drama, music, dance, and art activities to explore their impact on executive function skills and socialization. While it may take us some time to aggregate all the data, everyone involved is confident that this will be groundbreaking in many ways.
Our first shows back on the East Coast were at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville, NC. This was the first time to perform here. The theatre is beautiful, the crew was fantastic, and the audience was incredibly engaged and “conversational” throughout both sold out performances.
The executive director received this unsolicited email from a member of the theatre’s Board of Directors – someone who is usually very “picky” and has occasionally left performances during intermission:
“The performance was really terrific. Kevin is a fabulous entertainer…really holds his audience with amazing feats of illusion and his terrific personality. I’m still trying to figure out the newspaper trick!!!”
In my 30 years of touring, I’ve only performed in Maine on two occasions so I was excited to be working at the Collins Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Maine. I have to confess that I was a bit concerned about a Wednesday family-performance and was pleasantly surprised by the almost 1,000 patrons who attended. And there was no lack of excitement and enthusiasm from this audience!
The executive director of the center shared these comments: “The response to your show was very positive. I had several people thank me afterwards for doing such high-quality, family-friendly programming. Your show took our audience away from their daily lives and allowed them to be transported to a place of imagination and wonder. They believed. The reports from our technical crew were equally as complementary. They very much appreciated your hands on approach to the tech process and found you very easy to work with.”
This month, I also had the pleasure of working with the folks at the Paramount Theatre in Vermont again. We first worked together in 2011 and I was excited to be returning to the stage of this beautiful space! This time, they also decided to add an outreach component to our visit.
The Paramount Theatre partnered with Rutland Mental Health Services (RMHS) to reach out to the autism community in the area. This gave me an opportunity to visit students in the City Public Schools and conduct workshops for some very special young adults.
I’d like to share the comments with you from the perspective of the different participants – the Director of Support Services for the Rutland City Public Schools, and the President/CEO of Rutland Mental Health Services.
Dr. Eloise McGarry (Director of Support Services, Rutland City Public Schools): “Thank you for bringing the Hocus Focus program to the area. I received nothing but positive comments from staff and parents. It was truly amazing and delightful to watch Kevin interact with the students. His enthusiasm engaged the students and captivated their attention. It was clear how he was able to take the ‘magic’ and help them feel successful at something that was a mystery to the rest of us. The students were so engaged in learning and I enjoyed watching how he was able to reinforce ‘functional/academic skills’ through his ‘magic.’ Thank you again!”
Daniel Quinn (President/CEO, Rutland Mental Health Services):
He forwarded a copy of an article that appeared in the Rutland Herald along with these comments: “This article provides a good description of what was done by Kevin Spencer; but the article doesn’t capture the spirit of what happened on Friday. Kevin did not see, or define, the children by their ‘disability.’ He just saw them as children. He didn’t focus on what might be their limitations. He focused on what could be their possibilities. He didn’t see a child limited by a disability. He wondered what could be this child’s potential if you gave them a chance, just as we should do with all children. What I saw was inspiring. It was uplifting. You felt joy just being in the room and witnessing what took place.
“Kevin Spencer provides this service to children around the world. With the collaboration of Rutland Mental Health Services, the Paramount Theater, Rutland City Schools and our corporate sponsors, we were able to bring this service, even just for a morning, to Rutland. It was a wonderful morning [of workshops] and a great evening [of entertainment]. I am glad we were able bring this day to our community.”
Jessalyn Gustin, (Director of Community Support, Rutland Mental Health Services): “I cannot begin to thank you enough for the work you did with students of Rutland County. Your approach and methods for engaging each and every student was fun, respectful to the unique and varying needs of each individual, and presumed competence in the abilities all the students. Your passion and commitment to teaching and growing the skills and confidence in children with perceived disabilities is evident in the energy and attention you give to each student. The outcomes from this type of workshop reach farther than the many benefits of learning that the students receive. Thank you for your contribution to our community!”
I have talked many times over the years with the program director at WCC in an attempt to find a date that would work for both of us. Finally, it happened and we wrapped up our season on the stage of the Academic Arts Theatre on the campus of Westchester Community College. We had a very lively and excited full house of families and friends!
The Director wrote, “The Spencers were an absolute delight to have and work with and the audience enjoyed the show. It was quite positive and enjoyable!”
After our last show in Westchester, my team drove the big rig home while Kyle and I rented a car and drove up to Ogdensburg to spend a few days doing outreach activities in Ogdensburg, Canton, and Potsdam. The Ogdensburg Command Performances made arrangements for me to spend a full day with each of three organizations.
“Thank you so much for the opportunity for us to have Kevin work with our staff and participants. He is incredibly talented and was simply amazing working with the various functioning levels of our participants. Our clinicians particularly appreciated the training he provided to them and stated that they plan to utilize the tools he gave them with their clients. Our participants are still raving about his performance today and have asked repeatedly when he is coming back!!”
Andrea Montgomery, NYSARC, Director of Community Programs
“What a GREAT day…and to see all the residents laugh, interact and engage in the activities was inspiring. The therapists were able to take away ‘magic strategies’ and implement them into the treatments. It was a wonderful day!”
Terry Micelli, Director of Rehab, United Helpers
“Hocus Focus was OUTSTANDING!! Kevin integrated magic tricks with critical thinking skills, problem solving, collaboration, fine motor tasks, speaking and storytelling (communicating). Everyone was actively engaged and had ample time and opportunity to practice ‘tricks’. Students became more confident with each try and I actually witnessed self-esteem rise and student willing to take risks to “perform” in front of their peers. I only wish every grade, teacher and therapist would have been present, as it truly was an interdisciplinary approach to learning.”
- Lisa Grenville, BOCES, Potsdam, NY
It was a great way to wrap up May! Afterwards, Cindy and I took a few days to fly to Texas just to chill out and spend some much needed time together.
Cindy and I are honored to be featured in the current issue of THE LINKING RING, the oldest magic publication in the world. During its ninety years, The Linking Ring has had fourteen editors and evolved from a four-page mimeographed publication to a professionally printed and internationally distributed journal. It has documented the most significant events in our art over the past nine decades, traced the rise to fame of the “greats” in magic, and enabled magicians all over the world to exchange ideas. Through the years, The Linking Ring has had its detractors, and yet – to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill – “Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end – there it is.”
For more information on the International Brotherhood of Magicians, check out their website: www.magician.org.
Every few years, our tour takes us to the West. And it seems like it’s always in April. This was our year and we started the month in Gillette, WY working at Cam-Plex. After an incredible week in Gillette, we continued further west toward Utah, California and Washington. Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Kaycee, WY to fuel up the rig. That’s where I met the little guy pictured here. This little lamb was only a day old and when I asked if I could take a picture, the rancher suddenly dropped him in my arms and Cindy clicked the photo! He was much lighter (and softer) than I had imagined…and, new life reminded me that spring was just around the corner!
GILLETTE, WY: This was my first experience working in this incredibly visionary complex in Gillette, WY. This was an extended residency that included working with the school district and culminating in a final sold out performance at the Heritage Center Theatre to a wildly enthusiastic audience.
“We recently had the pleasure of hosting Kevin Spencer and his crew in our community for a week-long residency. He conducted a teacher workshop and several workshops with Autism/ASD students over the course of the week. It’s rare to find a teaching artist who is willing to work with this student population. It’s even more rare to find a teaching artist who not only excels at working with them, but also loves doing so. Kevin has a heart for working with these kids that so many others are afraid to do. He is a warm and caring individual who sees these kids as they are – students who want to be treated like their peers. He draws them out with his disarming smile and his talent to see past their disabilities and focus on their abilities. Everyone who was involved in the residency week raved about the experience. It was no surprise that we ended the week with a sold out public show! We will definitely be inviting Kevin back to our community in the near future.”
The Education coordinator worked brilliantly putting together a very thorough residency with the autism & special education programs in the school district. The week started with Professional Development training for special educators on arts-integrated teaching methods that would engage all of their students, including those with a special education classification. Over the next few days, I worked with multiple classes from 12 schools teaching students simple magic tricks. The skills required to learn these tricks are complex on many levels including attention, motor planning, dexterity, organization, sequencing, non-verbal and verbal communication, and social skills. Evidence demonstrates that learning and performing magic tricks can enhance student self-efficacy, self-esteem, and the ability to persevere. In a fun and motivating environment, students were able to improve the skills they find most challenging – academically, socially, and functionally.
Studies have demonstrated over and over again that arts-involved students get better grades, have higher rates of college enrollment, and are more likely to volunteer in their communities, vote and become involved in politics. They are, in short, more optimistic about what is ahead of them and they are more likely to set and achieve goals. Teaching magic tricks to students helps them develop and improve important 21st century skills often defined as the 4C’s — creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. The Gillette News Record featured Hocus Focus on the front page in an article entitled “Making Pure Magic.”
PLEASANTON, CA: After many years of attempting to make it happen, we were finally able to route through Northern California and set a date at the Firehouse Arts Center.
This is an awesome venue that’s not quite a proscenium stage but not a thrust stage either. It’s a great space that’s intimate for both performer and audience. Thanks to the flexibility of the technical crew and the “road experience” of my team, they were able to pull together a show that worked perfectly. Teamwork paid off in a big way and the sold out audience had a great time.
GRASS VALLEY, CA: That’s me standing just outside the Stage Entrance to the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, CA. This was our first time to work here. This is truly a “cowboy town” located in the hills of Northern California – scenic, charming, and friendly. We were almost sold out when we arrived and by show time, we were oversold with a packed audience!
“On behalf of all of us at the Center, I just wanted to pass on my thanks for a really great show on Saturday night. We’re all in agreement that everyone in your company was not only very professional but wonderful to work with (that doesn’t always happen, as you can well imagine from your time of being on the road!).”
LOGAN, UT: I was privileged to perform on the stage of the Ellen Eccles Theatre in 2007 so I was more than excited to be returning with a new show AND the opportunity to do some meaningful work in the Logan community. I worked with Jim several years earlier in Michigan and he had recently come on board as the Executive Director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts. The near-capacity crowd on Friday night made me feel like a rock star! The cheers, shouts, and exuberate applause for each illusion electrified the house. After the show, I had the chance to talk with a couple hundred “fans” in the lobby. In an email, Jim shared these comments:
“Kevin has a rare gift. He moves easily from filling the stage with boundless energy to engaging the audience one-on-one with warmth and generosity after the show.”
And we made the front page of the Herald Journal!
In the days leading up to the show, I was able to make some awesome connections in 2 adult care facilities, speak to the Occupational Therapy club at Utah State University, and work with 7 schools throughout the Cache Valley providing me with the opportunity to do a little magic with some great people. The FOX affiliate in Salt Lake City covered one of those outreach programs at a school and the local newspaper featured another event on the front page of the paper the following day.
“Kevin’s caring and engaging persistence helped these kids find the confidence they needed to overcome physical and emotional challenges and find the magic inside them selves. They had ten outreach activities in two days and about 80 miles of driving on unfamiliar roads. Color me impressed. I would say the Spencer’s Theatre of Illusion is a top notch group of professionals worthy of emulation.”
Here are some comments from a few of the teachers who participated in the Hocus Focus program in the days leading up to the show:
“Loved it! It was amazing. Kevin and his assistant were friendly and charismatic. I loved how he integrating magic to help kids with fine motor skills and thinking skills. I have a student with autism who was picking it up and loved it! He was able to do things I didn’t know he could to do. I’m so glad we did it. They were able to quickly build good rapport, and my students were energized and entertained. Let’s just say I’d love to have him back!” - Becky Winn, Birch Creek Elementary
“Kevin was great with the group. He remembered their names!! I thought it was both fun and informative for the kids. I wish he had had a little more time to make the connections with the kids about how they focused on the magic tricks and how they can benefit from that same kind of focus in their school work. I would highly recommend the program to anyone!” - Tammy Roper, Thomas Edison North Campus
“I had all of my students at the Hocus Focus Workshop and they loved it! Kevin and Eli were very personable and great with the kids. I loved that they first performed some tricks and then taught tricks the students could do themselves. My students really enjoyed the workshop and we would be VERY interested in doing something like this every year if possible. Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity!” Mountainside Elementary School
“Fantastic! We absolutely loved him. The residents totally had a positive, interactive experience. He was funny, kind, and loud enough for everyone to hear. One resident almost left right before he came because she said she was afraid of magic. But she stayed and loved it! Residents were using fingers, arms, and shoulders just by showing them tricks – great therapy! We’d love to have him back.” - Laura Wolford, Pioneer Valley Lodge
“The kids enjoyed being able to be in a small group and being able to participate. Those kids don’t usually get to do something like that. In most situations, they don’t like to volunteer because they’re afraid they might do something wrong; so, it was nice having them be able to participate. He tried to involve everyone, even the kids that weren’t sure they wanted to. The other thing I liked was that he had them tell a story with magic. They were learning and not realizing it. It was fun.” - Jill Wanner, Lewiston Elementary
“It was great! The kids loved it and were very engaged. The kids got front page of the paper and they loved that. It was great helping them work on their motor skills. They had to practice it a few times, but they didn’t get frustrated because it was a fun thing. If they every come back, let us know!” - Robin Patton, North Park Elementary
TACOMA, WA: This was my second performance at the spectacular Pantages Theatre in Tacoma. This is a stunning venue – and the audience of almost 1,000 was fantastic!
The difference this time was the amount of outreach they were able to incorporate. The day before the show, I made a visit to Grant Center for the Expressive Arts. This is a public school where subjects are taught through the framework of interactive arts programs – what a concept! My point-of-contact for the day was Conrad, the “kid principal.” That’s me and him in the picture above….
I spoke to students in 1st – 3rd grades and then spent time working with two groups of students in autism support classes. After working at Grant, I spend the afternoon working at Custer Elementary School with two classes of special education students.
EDMONDS, WA: This was my first time to work with the Edmonds Center, but I hope it’s not the last! The venue is very intimate for its size giving every member of the audience a “front row seat” to the production. The “oohs and aahs” from the near-capacity crowd was awesome and the dialogue between me and the audience made it feel like I was performing in my living room, not a 750 seat theatre!
I made a stop in Edmonds two days prior to the public performance to do a little community outreach. The ECA partnered with the Everett Clinic to sponsor a 3-hour continuing education workshop for occupational and physical therapists. As is our practice, we conduct extensive evaluations of each workshop. Here are a few of the comments from participants:
“This workshop was entertaining, well thought out, researched, and explained. This far exceeded my expectations. One suggestion – make it longer…I can’t believe I actually said that!”
“The instructor was dynamic. Loved the opportunity to DO the tricks!”
“The instructor was very knowledgeable – dynamic and interesting.”
“After being a PT for 11 years and attending LOTS of continuing education classes, this is the only one that I feel I will remember, use, and tell other about for days…even years to come! I can’t wait to go to work with kids tomorrow!”
“Best workshop I’ve attended! Very practical activities we can use immediately in our practice. Time flew and it was very interactive. Fun, full of learning – not just magic, but therapeutic uses of tasks.”
And, finally, just a few pictures from the road….One More Stop On My Journey.