Archive for July, 2008

AYCOCK AUDITORIUM – GREENSBORO, NC

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

The show this weekend went great. The audience was the “All Arts & Sciences Camp” so they were more than a little enthusiastic. The show clipped along at a fast pace and everyone did a great job of keeping things moving. This was Ethan’s first performance completely on his own and he did a spectacular job! I know his day started off fairly relaxed but by showtime, he was running full speed.

Aycock Auditorium has been going through a complete renovation the last two years. Brian Fuller, the Technical Director, had a great house crew (Kate, Hugh, and Matthew) as well as the local IATSE 574 to help us through the day. Overall, fairly easy and uneventful day for all of us.

Keith got to work on a board that’s just like the one we just purchased. It was good for him to see it in a theatre and I know he’s excited about getting ours programmed and into use. Hopefully we’ll be moving into a theatre in the next week, hang our lights, and get it programmed and ready for the fall tour.

Cindy did a fantastic job on the show Monday night. When there’s no intermission, she’s running constantly…but she always manages to look beautiful when she hits the stage.

We drove back to Virginia after the show…got to sleep in our own beds!

LEAVING TODAY

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

We are heading out today for a quick trip to Greensboro, NC. We’ll be performing at Aycock Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Tomorrow’s show is a private event for an Arts & Sciences camp that is hosted by the University each year. This is not our first time performing for this group. Some of the brightest and most creative students on the East Coast attend and the coordinators feel like our show not only entertains but challenges these students to think beyond what they “see.” It should be fun!

LOADING THE TRUCK

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

It’s been a fairly busy week – split between the office and the warehouse. Keith has been sweating it away in the heat, working mostly in the warehouse with the new lighting system. He’s made HUGE strides and, when he’s done with all the programming, his efforts are going to save us a lot of time during the set up process on show days.

We’ve been doing some rehearsals on Walking Through A Wall, getting Ethan ready for his first “solo” performance coming up this weekend in Greensboro, NC. And we’ve had a couple of new road cases arrive as well. We are heading into “full throttle” to get everything together before we hit the road for a great fall tour! BTW, the tour schedule is down at the moment so I can do some additions – back up again soon.

I’ve been working very hard on what Cindy refers to as my “thesis.” I’m finalizing the curriculum for use with special needs students. It has been quite an undertaking and my mind is about ready to explode with knowledge – neurodevelopmental constructs and executive functions – that I never thought I would need. I am very excited about this project and believe, when it’s done, will have a major impact on LD/ADHD students helping them achieve self-efficacy and produce positive effects on academic success, engagement, and motivation.

Today, we all meet at the warehouse to load up the truck!

PLAYING GAMES WITH OIL

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

I’m having a very difficult time following the actions of most of Congress in regards to (1) finding new energy sources, and (2) decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. I was watching the national morning news today and listened to Illinois Representative Jan Shakowksy blatantly lie to the American public about what the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Democrats are doing to address both of these issues. Ms. Shakowsky said the Republican minority “squandered an opportunity to responsibly increase domestic oil production and lower energy prices” by defeating a bill that would allow for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. What??? Does she think we’re all just stupid? I guess the obvious answer to that question is, “Yes, she does.”

The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska already has a history of over 100 years of oil exploration. And the Bureau of Land Management currently administers more than 300 Federal oil and gas leases on those 23 million acres. So, what’s the problem? Well, oil exploration has yielded no results – no oil – in this region according to studies released last week. As a matter of fact, every major oil company IN THE WORLD has passed on these leases because they realize there is no potential for production. They might as well be drilling in my backyard.

So why would the Congress play this game? Why would the Congress need to pass a bill to allow drilling in a place where oil companies already have the right to drill? Well, it doesn’t. But it sure sounds good to say “We tried to pass a bill that would help Americans but didn’t get the support we needed.”

Meanwhile, while the price per barrel of crude oil has gone down nearly $16 this week, Democrats have decided that a “gas tax holiday” wouldn’t be wise. I agree. I don’t think they should manipulate the price of gas at the pumps by suspending the tax for a couple of months. But this is the kicker – they have also decided that it might be a good idea to INCREASE gas taxes so they can put more money in the highway fund! We are already paying record prices for gas and it has affected even the most basic items (bread is up 38%, milk up 21%, eggs up 68%, gas up 40%,etc). This is the perfect time for a tax increase, don’t you think? Let’s just see how much more money they can sqeeze out of a financially-strapped family! In the first half of this year, bankruptcies are up 30%. And all the government can think of is playing games with oil and raising our taxes.

I’m not sure where you stand on this issue, but I’d like someone in the government to just tell me the truth now and then and quit playing politics. Representative Jan Shakowsky lied to all of us this morning for no other reason but to build the political power of her party and her office. She should be ashamed. They all should be ashamed.

HOME AND BACK TO WORK

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

It’s always tough to come off the high your get from a great audience (like the audience in Princeton last weekend) but, reality is, we’re back home and back to work. The new tech toys have begun to arrive at the Spencer Warehouse – today was a day to begin exploring!

Greg turned me on to the new Flip Mino. I didn’t get one before leaving for Europe (and regretted every minute of it) so I bought one almost as soon as I got home. This little thing is amazing! I’ve been recording everything – keep you eyes on YouTube!

Yesterday we received our new Ion light board. Keith did tons of research on this before we made the purchase. We were at the warehouse today getting it hooked up to the intelligent lighting and, from what I can tell, this was an investment well made. I think this is going to simply things for us on the road immensely. Keith is a genius!

Ethan and Cindy spent a good part of the afternoon working on illusions, getting them ready for the fall tour. We have a performance next week in Greensboro, NC (very close to home) so the timing is good. That show will also be Ethan’s first “solo performance” as the Illusion Engineer. I’m confident he’s going to do a fantastic job! He’s working hard to get ready.
I’m working hard on finalizing a few projects. I managed to complete one of the many DVD projects I needed to do, just in time to be effective and beneficial over the next few weeks. I still have one big DVD – STORIES FROM THE ROAD – to get done before we hit the road. And I’m just pages away from finishing up the Healing of Magic curriculum. I have some school systems lined up to test the program so I really need to get going on this one! Not much time left – August is right around the corner!!

Tomorrow, we’ll head back to the warehouse…still lots of work to do.

MATHENA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER – PRINCETON, WV

Monday, July 14th, 2008

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!

OIL SPECULATION AND FUEL COSTS

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Last week, crude oil hit an all-time high of $146/barrel. I know everyone is feeling the financial pinch of the rising costs of gas. While we were in Europe, there were several protests by frustrated people looking for some relief.

I’ve always believed that speculators destroyed the real estate market in America, driving up prices artificially. The greed of individuals and corporations took over resulting in sub-prime loans and alternative forms of financing that, eventually, crumbled the market leaving thousands of people nearly bankrupt. We can see where that speculation landed us. Economists anticipate another 2.5 million home foreclosures this year.

In my humble opinion, speculators are doing the same thing to the crude oil futures market. Twenty years ago, 21% of oil contracts were purchased by speculators who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever taking delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66% of all oil futures contracts, and those numbers are only the deals we know about. Speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each other – over and over again. Greed takes over because of demand but much of that “demand” is artificial (created by the speculators). Prices skyrocket and speculators pocket millions of dollars. It is estimated that a barrel of oil may trade 20-plus times before it is actually delivered and used. And with each trade, the price goes up and all of us pick up the final tab. Some market experts estimate that current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs. That means oil COULD be selling between $86 and $116 a barrel instead of $146. And that translates to considerably lower prices at the pump for consumers.

I’ve stated before that I believe we should definitely be exploring alternative forms of energy. I also believe that we should be drilling for oil in our own country to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. But both of those things will take time in order to see an impact. Speculators, on the other hand, can be stopped much sooner resulting in dramatic decreases in crude oil prices now.

If you want to know more, check out www.StopOilSpeculationNow.com. You can make a difference!

JULY 4, 2008

Friday, July 4th, 2008

We’ve been back from our trip for about four days now. I think we’ve fallen back into the time zone thing and the jet-lag isn’t nearly as bad today. I’ve been surprised that I’ve suffered with it at all. I’m used to international flying and when we go to Asia, I’m rarely effected by the change. Oh well, eating lunch at 6am isn’t so bad, right?

It is July 4 and it looks to be a beautiful day here in Virginia. Today our nation is 232 years old. In light of my recent trip, we are just a “baby nation.” Not really that old when viewed through that lens. Nonetheless, I’m proud to be a American. This is a great nation in spite of our current challenges, socially and economically. I found this website of real people sharing real stories of what it means to be “American – standing together with a love of freedom and the courage to face the future.” I hope you’ll check it out – REAL AMERICAN STORIES.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!