Archive for October, 2007

MAKING THE SWITCH

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

We are on our way to Tullahoma, TN for a Healing of Magic outreach program and a performance at the South Jackson Civic Center. We stopped in Nashville on Saturday so I could make a visit to the Apple Store and check out the Mac notebooks. Since the “destruction” of my laptop in LAX on Labor Day weekend, I’ve been struggling to get the business functional on my new computer using the VISTA operating system. VISTA has been one of the most frustrating experiences of my business career! Almost nightly, there is a new glitch or problem to solve with this system. All of my friends – the MAC converts – have been encouraging me to make the switch.

As I walked into the store, I was greeted by friendly sales people who were there to answer any questions I might have. They demonstrated some of the features of the new MAC operating system – Leopard. It’s a really cool machine…but when it came time to make a decision, I broke out in a cold sweat, headache, nausea. Who would have thought this would be such a hard decision?? But the more I thought about transferring data, purchasing and installing programs, converting files, the more sick I became! I left the store with a sense of internal panic and Cindy and I talked. It’s a big decision – and an expensive one.

A relaxed dinner at Panera Bread, talking with Keith (a MAC convert) and a phone call to Greg (another MAC convert), helped talk me off the ledge and make a less emotional decision and a more intellectual one. In the end, I walked out of the store with a MacBook Pro.

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Keith and I set up the initial things last night when we got back to the hotel. And, once I informed my friends of the “decision,” I received lots of “congrats” from the other converts. Greg has already sent me tons of great tips and information to get me through the “conversion process.” And Jim, one of my best friends and MAC person, wrote “Let me know in a week why you were ever dealing with PCs.”

So, let the journey begin….

MILLER CONCERT HALL – WICHITA, KS

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

After a long day of driving, the team arrived in Wichita, KS for a performance at Miller Concert Hall on the campus of Wichita State University.

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The staff and crew here were great to work with. Ray and Kerry – the technical staff directors – had their guys waiting for us when we arrived. And the SAC had members gathering as well to help unload all the equipment. It was a 7pm show and those come at us fairly quickly, no matter how early we load in.

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Once the equipment was in place, everyone jumped in to get the scenery in the air and the intelligent lighting hung on the electrics. Things moved along at a steady pace but we were working ahead of schedule – a good thing with an early show! Keith cut the crew down to the final running crew of the show and we spent the next few hours finalizing the smaller details of the show.

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Doors opened at 6:30pm and the crowd slowly made their way into the theatre. By 7pm, we had a nice house of enthusiastic people, clapping to the music and reacting as the lights swept across the auditorium. We were into our first illusion and, judging from the reactions of the audience, we knew this was going to be a fun show. By the time we hit the finale and I escaped from the Underwater Escape, the audience gave us a standing ovation – very nice crowd.

The show went down quickly and we made record time with this crew getting loaded back up again. We had a GREAT time in Wichita working with all of these guys

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…and, now, we’re off to Tennessee!

RAMSEY THEATRE – WAYNE, NE

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

We spent the night in Fremont, NE – only 70 miles from Wayne. The drive today was easy and we arrived in town in time to grab a quick bite to eat before heading over to the Lied Center for the Arts/Ramsey Theatre.

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There was a committee of students waiting at the theatre for us and, once Cindy and Nolan scoped the stage, load in and set up moved along smoothly. It was a fairly easy day and it was showtime before we knew it.  Melissa and Mike, along with their crew, had the lights hung and patched which always makes it easier for us.  And Beth had her group there ready to move the equipment in and onto the stage.
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We’ve performed on the campus of Wayne State College several times in the past but (I think) it’s been at least 7 or 8 years since our last visit here. A crowd started gathering early outside the theatre doors and, once opened, the place filled up fast. More than 700 people filed in taking every available seat – they were in the aisles, along the back walls, and sitting on the steps in the balcony!

We had some really great volunteers tonight as well. The audience was enthusiastic and eager to help out on stage. You gotta love an audience like that!  We had a great time working with everyone at Ramsey Theatre!
Tomorrow, we’re off to Wichita, KS for a show there on Wednesday night….360 miles on Tuesday.

McCAIN AUDITORIUM – MANHATTAN, KS

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

What a GREAT day we had at McCain Auditorium – great staff, great crew, great audience! This show will definitely be one of the highlights of our fall tour. Everyone here – Tim, Teri, Kyle, so many others who work hard to bring the arts to the Manhattan community – were professional and friendly, making our day stress-free and enjoyable. We thank them for that!
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We arrived the evening before and got all checked into our hotel, just across the street from K-State where McCain Auditorium is located. Ticket sales had been very strong for us here so we were very excited about the show. I’m always interested to see how the local media handles our press. We had some great television and radio coverage arranged by McCain and ads were placed in the local newspaper, the Manhattan Mercury. Nolan had forwarded a Media Kit to the paper in September and followed up on it several times. Eventually we were told by the News Editor that the local paper just wasn’t interested in doing a feature on the show but they did place two small listings on the front page for “weekend events.” We realize that we are not the only “news” happening in a community so it wasn’t an issue.
In spite of it the lack of a feature in the local paper, we had a large, enthusiastic audience for the evening performance. From the moment we stepped on the stage, the excitement was overwhelming. The audience was responsive and the volunteers made the show enjoyable for us and the rest of the crowd.

Kyle and his crew were there to meet us as the truck rolled into the loading dock. The stage was completely clear and everything was just as we needed it to be to have an easy day. Load in started right on time.

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McCain Auditorium is a beautiful venue of about 1750 seats. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house. The entire main floor was sold out and we were sold into the second balcony. No matter where you sit in this place, you have a great view. I was excited that the show was going to have a wonderful aesthetic appeal.
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After the show, I had the chance to meet hundreds of patrons who were waiting in the lobby. Everyone was so kind and ready to let me know what their favorite illusion of the evening was. Everyone from senior citizens, young adults, and children were there to say hello. I’m always humbled when people take the time to stick around and say hello.

We want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved with the show (the directors, staff and crew of McCain) and to the great audience that chose to spend their Saturday night with us. We’re off to Nebraska.

EMAILS, COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

We’ve begun to hit our stride on the road this month. Every other day we have a performance or a workshop of some sort. It’s nice to be busy! We did get the truck repaired in Longview – made the drive back down there from Texarkana to pick it up (and a chance to visit for a while with Cynthia and her staff at the Belcher Performance Center as well), and the repair is holding!! We just have to pray it holds until we get home in mid November!

We’ve had a couple of nice reviews printed in the area papers after the show. And we’ve received quite a few emails in the office from people who attended the show and took the time to find us online and drop us a note. Some of them have even sent along a few photos! I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Kevin: We really enjoyed your show. John Calvin was so excited that you picked him as one of your volunteers. (Thanks for not cutting off his head!) He spent most of the next afternoon learning some of the tricks from the magic kit you gave him. Who knows what kind of positive influence you might have on his life?! It’s great to be able to go to a show oriented for the whole family…a rarity these days.

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And this one from Texarkana:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Spencer and company: I took my 12 year son to see your magic show tonight. We thought it was awesome! That was the best magic show we have ever seen. Thank you for coming to Texarkana! We hope you will return soon.

And this one from Longview:

After seeing your show, and hearing you speak of your passion for your life long dream [to do magic], I was touched and inspired. I have a 21 year old son who loves music. He is a natural born musician. He has been playing music for almost 10 years. I have encouraged him from day one to follow his dream. He is in a local band, playing the drums. They write their own songs and music. He is truly talented. After hearing you say how your family encouraged and supported you to follow your dream and you did, I knew that I am doing the right thing by supporting my son to do something out of the “norm”. I believe everyone should follow their dreams and use their natural born talents for the better. You are an inspiration. You are also a great speaker. I knew you were a Christian just by hearing you speak. Then after meeting you and hearing you speak more in depth about your faith, that was a blessing to me. Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to meet you. I wish you all the luck and blessings you and Cindy deserve. Keep up the good work!

We’ve received lots of these types of emails in the last few days…and I’m really glad that people are having a great time at the show.

Tomorrow, we’re at McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, Kansas – should be fun!

BELCHER PERFORMANCE CENTER – LONGVIEW, TX

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

On Saturday night, we appeared at the incredible Belcher Performance Center on the campus of LeTourneau University. What a beautiful space! We were only the second show in the theatre this season and it was quite a privilege to be here. Cynthia Hellen, the director, and her staff were so wonderful – they made us feel like we were right at home.

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We arrived right on time and the day moved along at a very steady pace. Before we knew it, it was time to open the doors. We had pre-sold over 1100 tickets and they were expecting somewhere around 1400 total for the evening. We did end up with a very full house of excited, enthusiastic people – making for some great volunteers throughout the show.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to meet so many of them in the lobby at our merch table. It’s always great to meet people, listen to their comments, and hear about their favorite illusion(s) in the show. After the lobby meet-and-greet, I was whisked away to another room where many of the area magicians were waiting. It’s always encouraging when the local magicians (these guys were from Dallas, Tyler, and the surrounding area) make an effort to come to the show. They were so kind and I enjoyed the time I had to spend with them.

David and Kylie drove in from Dallas with some friends to see the show. It was good to see them both again. I just wished we had had more time to sit and talk, see how they were doing. Maybe somewhere down the road….

We slept in this morning and then started the drive back to Texarkana. We’re going to have some work done on the truck – it needs a new rear main seal on the engine (ugh) – so we rented a car. We drove to Texarkana, dropped off the trailer at the Perot Theatre, and then went and checked into the hotel. Cindy followed me in the rental car BACK to Longview where we dropped of the truck at the repair shop. Then we started the journey back to Texarkana. We’ll do the show here on Monday, drive the rental car back to Longview on Tuesday morning where we will pick up the truck and drop off the rental car. Then we’ll drive back to Texarkana, pick up the trailer and head to Kansas. Are you tired yet????

On the way back from Longview today, Cindy and I stopped off at Whataburger for dinner and then caught part of the local carnival!

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Back in the car and off to Texarakana….tomorrow, it’s the Perot Theatre!

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TEXARKANA, AR & LONGVIEW, TX

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

We’ve had a great couple of days! Nolan and I were up early on Thursday to meet the people from ArtsSmart and TRAHC – a local organization that sponsored our Healing of Magic workshops in Texarkana. That morning at 8:30am I conducted a workshop for Special Education teachers and therapists who working in the local school systems. All the teachers were very excited about workshop but I think they had some “concerns” about how it was going to assist them in teaching their students. About 15 minutes into the session, there was no doubt in their minds that they could use these concepts.

After the workshop was over, all of us drove over to College Hill school where I worked with several 3rd and 4th graders. They were great! There’s nothing like hearing the small voices of children laughing when they become magicians!

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After this session, I did an interview with the local NPR station. It aired on Friday in advance of the performance here at the Perot Theatre on Monday.

We did a quick lunch at a great Mexican restaurant and then it was off to the high school for another session with some students there. Along the way, we stopped on the “border” and got our picture taken straddling the Arkansas and Texas borders. It was pretty cool…

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The session with the high school students was also very successful. We had some really wonderful and excited students to work on their skills and learn a few magic tricks! They performed for the class – and did an outstanding job!

After the workshops in Texarkana, we drove on to Longview, TX. We’re going to be performing at the new Belcher Performing Arts Center on the campus of LeTourneau University…so, Friday morning I spoke in chapel to give the student body and idea of what they might see on Saturday night. I was also able to share a few thoughts with them about God’s desire to use people outside of “traditional” ministries. The crux of my thought can be summed up simply – I believe it is impossible for a Christian to have a secular job. If you are a Christ-follower and you are doing what you do in His name (like the Bible encourages us to do – Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.), then our work is no longer secular work – it’s sacred. You and God are there, together – the difference is our awareness. Unless what we are doing is unethical or outright wrong, then when we do our jobs well, we are serving Christ.

After chapel, we grabbed some lunch and then headed back for a Healing of Magic workshop at Belcher PAC for a group of about 350 therapists – physical, occupational, pre-med students, radiology technicians, and nursing students. It was a fun two hours and everyone participated, having a great time. We even got some of them up on the stage to do a few tricks!
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It’s about 12:30am on Saturday morning…I’m off to bed. We have a 11am load in for the performance tomorrow night. It looks like we’re going to have a great crowd. Pre-sale of tickets is around 1200 and we should end up with a crowd of 1300 – 1400. I’ll keep you posted…and give you an idea of our “truck challenges” at the moment. It’s going to be a very interesting next few days.

JONES AUDITORIUM – KINGSVILLE, TX

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

We arrived into Kingsville before 10:30am and headed to Jones Auditorium on the campus of Texas A&M University. Jean and her crew were waiting for us at the loading dock. Once the truck was back in, we scoped the stage and were very impressed with the renovations they have done in the theatre since our last performance here several years ago.

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The entire day went so smoothly.  The crew was excellent and extremely helpful making the day much easier than we had anticipated.  We moved through all the technical aspects very quickly and everyone took a well-deserved dinner break.  I made my way over to the university’s dining hall and took about 30 minutes to introduce myself to the students who were there.  It was very cool to see so many of them with their tickets in hand, ready to come to the show and have a good time.

We had a very good crowd and they were also VERY responsive.  The audience was a nice mix of the public and the college students – and most of the volunteers were students.  I heard tons of positive comments from them after the show was over.  It was encouraging to hear college students talk about how impressed they were with the magic.  It’s been several years since we’ve performed in the college marketplace but, during those years, we were named Campus Entertainer of the Year twice.  We still bring our show to performing arts centers on campuses across the country but performances are always open to the public.  It’s a great audience for us and one we enjoy performing for.

Today was a long day – driving more than 500 miles from Kingsville to Texarkana.  You sometimes forget just how BIG Texas really is!!

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Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

We slept in on Saturday morning and left Sioux City, IA around 11am. The drive to Texas is about 1200 miles and we have two and a half days to do it.

In Nebraska, we got pulled over at a Weigh Station and I was asked to bring in my “paperwork.” The FMSCA (here we go again?) was a bit confused by my custom vehicle, whether or not I need apportioned plates (I don’t), and should I buy a fuel permit??? In order to make it easier, I just stopped at the next Truck Stop and paid the $35 for a trip permit through Nebraska so it wouldn’t be an issue. I’d rather pay $35 than $200 in fines.

We crossed into Kansas on Sunday – field after field of corn and sunflowers. Farmers are into full harvest! In Newton, KS we stopped at the local Braum’s to get a bite to eat. As I was walking toward the store, I was approached by an older gentleman perhaps in his early 80′s. He had obviously just come from church and was dressed very nicely. As he walked over, there was a big smile on his face. He asked, “Where do you perform?” And then proceeded to share his own experience “on the road.” During the depression, he traveled with a variety show that included a magician. They performed “fair dates” and he was a part of the performing troupe. He was an ice skater. He shared with me some of his memories – eating at the “chow house,” sleeping below the wagons on the train, skating on masonite and plastic, and being baffled by the magician even when watching from the side of the stage. As he walked away, he turned, shook my hand and said, “Those were the best times of my life.”

We left Kansas and headed down I-35 through Oklahoma. We stopped in Norman, OK at the local Best Buy to pick up a new road computer. Our other laptop is definitely on it’s last leg and we need to get something before we loose all the information. Another perk of this stop in Norman was the Taco Cabana – time for a late lunch!

We finally crossed the border into Texas and spent the night in Gainesville. We were up early this morning to finish the 450 remaining miles to Kingsville, TX. Our show is there tomorrow night (Tuesday). We decided to spend the time just a few miles away in Calallen, TX…should take us only 30 minutes to get to Jones Auditorium in the morning.

It’s going to be a very busy week – show in Kingsville on Tuesday; drive 600 miles to Texarkana on Wednesday; several Healing of Magic outreach programs on Thursday and then drive to Longview; speak in chapel at LeTourneau University and conduct a Healing of Magic workshop in Longview on Friday; show at Belcher Performing Arts Center in Longview on Saturday; and head back to Texarkana on Sunday for a show at the Perot Theatre on Monday.

THE ORPHEUM THEATRE – SIOUX CITY, IA

Monday, October 8th, 2007

We spent the night in Walnut, IA – a little more than 100 miles from Sioux City. Needless to say, we were up EARLY to make the final jaunt into town. We made great time and arrived around 10:30am for an 11am load in. The local crew – IATSE 42 – was there to meet us and the stage was clear, plot was hung, lines were set, and everyone was ready to go to work.

The Orpheum Theatre is a beautifully restored vaudeville house that is absolutely exquisite. It’s only been restored for about 5 years and it’s a HUGE house – 2500 seats! Pre-sale of tickets was very strong and we had a big write up in the local Entertainment Section of the Sioux City Journal that day of the show. We were expecting a good crowd!
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As is typical of these old vaudeville houses, the stage is wide but not very deep. Cindy and Nolan scoped the stage and found a place for everything. But it was PACKED backstage. They made it work during the show – like a well-oiled machine.

Keith and I had a fairly uneventful day because the crew was so good. All the scenery went up fast as did the intelligent lighting. We were into the first break of the day almost 30 minutes ahead of schedule. We moved through focus fast, making only a few adjustments due to the angle of some of the instruments in the front of house position. Keith and Rick started writing cues and I worked on getting the intelligent lighting homed and tweaked. The running crew arrived and we did a tech run through…off to eat dinner before the doors opened!

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The show started with a lot of energy in the crowd and once we made it to the Brick Wall illusion, the audience was on the edge of their seats. When I walked through the wall, they broke into instantaneous applause and whistles, shouts of appreciation – it was unbelievable. I don’t know how to put into words how that feels to an artist on the stage. We closed the first half of the show with Windshear and, once again, the audience made me feel like a rock star. Enthusiastic applause, whistling and shouts of appreciation – tons of energy! The second half flew by and when we reached the finale, the Underwater Escape, the audience was right there with us. We left the stage to thunderous applause – a very, very humbling experience for us. We were thrilled to have been accepted so well in Sioux City and look forward to going back.

After load out, we checked into our hotel and took off for Perkins restaurant for some breakfast!! In the morning, we’re off to Texas!