This weekend, we were privileged to be a part of the gala opening of the Chuck Mathena Performing Arts Center in Princeton, WV. The center is about 160 miles from our home town so it was an easy trip through some beautiful scenery to get there. It was easy to find the venue – it’s the biggest and most contemporary building in Princeton, easily visible from the main highway through the area (Highway 460). The design of the building is really spectacular – large lobby, art gallery, lots of bathrooms, and a very nice theatre.
We were there right on time Saturday morning for load in – with a large crew of energetic guys to help unload the trailer. Unfortunately there was a car parked too close to the loading dock area that was giving us some trouble aligning with the dock. Not a problem for these guys – they surrounded the car, lifted it up, and moved it to another location!
The stage is beautiful, spacious, and well-equipped. Most of the technical crew came in from the Clay Center in Charleston, WV to help out for the weekend of events. We hit a few snags throughout the day due to the “newness” of the building and the equipment but, overall, things went fairly smoothly. Nolan drove in from Indiana to assist us with this show, giving Ethan one last chance to get as familiar with things as possible before our next performance – which will be completely his.
I was really pleased with the aesthetics of the stage as our show started to take shape. The lighting and drops worked well in this space but we did have some issues with the fire alarms. We ran our hazers throughout the day to make sure we wouldn’t set anything off and during tech rehearsal, they finally did. Flashing lights – recorded announcements – and the arrival of the Fire Captain were the results. The staff scrambled for the keys to shut it all down, made a few phone calls to alert the department that we were not on fire. We made a few modifications and adjustments to our hazers and managed to get through the performance without another incident.
The audience arrived enthusiastically and packed the theatre. People of all ages and demographics – seniors, college students, families, and teenagers. It was a fantastic mix and the energy in the place was undeniable. The responses to each of the illusions was amazing. We had great volunteers from the crowd assisting us during Heads Off and the Brick Wall – both of whom added an element of humor and genuineness to the illusions. As we closed the first half of the show with Windshear, the audience erupted into applause, whistles, and shouts of approval. There is no way to put into words the way that makes a performer feel!
The second half of the show went just as smoothly as the first. By once the finale was complete, they were instantly on their feet with a standing ovation. It was an amazing experience – and I am always humbled by audiences who stand to show their appreciation.
After load out, it was a stop at the local Sonic for a late snack (that’s a whole other story)…and then back to the hotel for some much needed rest!