Archive for January, 2010

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Our final show for the month of January was in the quaint town of Ocean Springs, MS.  We performed at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in the downtown area.  The Cultural Center is in a newly-renovated school building built in the 1920′s.  Today, this building houses galleries, classrooms, and a beautiful theatre.

Eric Zala is the Executive Director and he’s doing a fantastic job.  He met us as we pulled into the loading area, gave me a quick tour of the stage and backstage area, and introduced me to the technical director, Derrick.  Cindy and the guys scoped the stage to figure out where it was all going to go and load in commenced!

It’s a good thing we had lots and lots of guys to help – load in was a little more interesting than usual.  BUT there guys got it all in…and won’t have to visit the local gym for a few weeks (lots of lifting involved).  Once we were in, the rest of the day was fairly uneventful – scenery, lighting, focus, tech, and show time!

The great news of the day was the show was completely sold out – they even set up a few additional chairs to accommodate the “extras.”  The show had generated lots of media attention – 3 prominent features in area newspaper – and the excitement in the audience was palpable.  This was an amazing crowd – enthusiastic, responsive, and great volunteers.

One of my high school friends – John Duke – his wife (Leanne) and their daughter (Zoe) drove in from Pensacola to see the show.  Afterwards, we hit the local Denny’s and had the chance to visit.  Ocean Springs, MS was a great way to wrap up January 2010!

ENTERPRISE, AL

Friday, January 29th, 2010

We spent the last two days in Enterprise, AL working with the area arts alliance.  We’ve been talking with this organization for 10 years about bringing our show to Enterprise.  If you remember, about 4 years ago a major tornado hit this town and destroyed many of the buildings including their performing arts center.  Since that time, they’ve been doing their performances in a nearby city, Elba, at the high school auditorium.

The theatre seats about 750 people and they sold about 950 tickets.  Needless to say, it was a great audience!  When the doors opened 45 minutes before the show, almost half the audience was there to get their seats.  The excitement kept building – you could feel it – as it got closer to show time.  When we hit the stage with our first illusion, we got a great response.  And the responses were awesome right up to the finale – the underwater escape.  When Cindy and I took our final bows, the audience was instantly on their feet – standing ovation.  A big THANKS to Suzanne, David, Cheri, and the entire Board!

This morning, we (me, Ethan, and Alan) were picked up by Carole at 8am and drove over to Hillcrest Elementary School.  We spent the morning working with some very special students there.  We had a great time – you can just beat starting the day with big smiles, laughs, and hearing kids say “I did it!”

LEVY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER – LAKE CITY, FL

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This was our first time to perform at the Levy PAC.  We arrived right on time and started almost immediately getting the equipment off the truck.  We would have a more limited crew for set up here so we wanted to get going as quickly as possible.  Keith managed to get our light board configured, work through their dimmer situation, and get us all patched in a short amount of time.

Things moved along very quickly.  Ethan and Alan took time away from setting up the illusions to help me with the backdrops and lighting.  Alan also helped Cindy get many of her details started so her day would go a bit smoother.  In the end, it all came together very well.  I was especially pleased with the way the stage looked as we moved into tech rehearsal.  The colors were beautiful and we all accomplished the goal of our show – to create an experience for our audience that is not typical of a “magic show.”  We always strive to provide our audience with a theatrical presentation of grand illusion – not simply a magic show.

As the audience made their way into the theatre, it was a great mix of older and younger people.  There were families, teenagers, 20-somethings, and senior citizens.  And their responses were fantastic to each and every illusion we performed on the stage.  Afterwards, in the lobby, I had the chance to get pictures taken, sign autographs, and listen to patrons share their favorite moments in the show.  It was very rewarding!

We’ve just arrived in Enterprise, AL for a show here on Thursday night.

COOL YOUTUBE VIDEO

Monday, January 25th, 2010

After the show at the Flagler Auditorium, I saw a posting on one of our YouTube videos from “loveorskate69.”  He was at the show and is a pretty amazing sketch artist.  He has several videos online that you can check out.  I asked him to make a drawing of me…and he did.  So, check it out!

PALM COAST AND BACK TO JAX, FL

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

FLAGLER AUDITORIUM – PALM COAST, FL

After two great days of workshops in Jacksonville, we jumped into the rig and headed south to the Flagler Auditorium in Palm Coast.  This is always one of our favorite places to perform.  The entire team here – Lisa, Bruce, Jack, and the crew – treat us like family…and so we feel like family.  They even had chicken noodle soup waiting for me when I arrived to help me through my cold.

The stage was clear and ready for us when we arrived.  And we started almost immediately loading in the cases and getting things set up.  This is a student crew at the Flagler but I’ll put them up against almost any crew we work with.  They are professional, friendly, knowledgeable, and hard workers.

The show went up fairly quickly with only a few snags along the way…but with each challenge, the crew jumped right in to make it all work.  It was dinner time before we knew it and “mom” had some freshly made wraps, fresh fruits, and some snacks ready for us.

When the doors opened, the crowd made their way to their seats.  We had a fantastic audience – a nice mix of young and old, great volunteers, and lots of enthusiasm and excitement.  What more could you ask for??  These guys are awesome!

THE FLORIDA THEATRE – JACKSONVILLE, FL

Early Saturday morning, we drove north on I-95 back to Jacksonville to set up for the evening performance at the Florida Theatre.  The K-girls – Kendall and Katie – had uploaded their vlog with a bit of humor thrown in to reach out to their YouTube fans.  You can check it out here.

We arrived right on time and pulled the truck to the front of the Theatre to begin load in.  Saul, the TD here, was ready for us remembering every detail of our last performance here in 2007.  The guys had the stage ready for us so it was easy to just sign everyone in and start loading in the cases.

The day moved along quickly and I’m sure we set an all-time new record for load in, set up, and tech rehearsal – four hours!  A huge thank you to Saul, Amy, Kenny, and local IATSE 115 for doing such an outstanding job!  We had a lot of time to relax, enjoy dinner, and try to doctor our colds a bit (yes, Cindy and Ethan now also have a cold).  Take a look at this proscenium – isn’t this a beautiful stage???

And here’s the way the stage started to look as we moved through the lighting….

We enjoyed a good home-cooked Southern-sytle dinner of pork chops, mac and cheese, field peas, and ice cream sundaes.  It’s a good thing we had that much time between dinner and the show just to let the food digest!

Doors opened at 7pm and the audience made their way to their seats.  Once again, we had some great volunteers on stage with us making it a fun evening and an enjoyable show.  In the lobby afterwards, I got to meet tons of them – one of my favorite parts of the day.  I heard lots of positive comments about the new magic in the show.  One after another, they shared their favorite moment with me.  It was a great way to end a great weekend!

JACKSONVILLE, FL – DAY TWO

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I’ve been battling a really nasty cold since I got back from the frigid temperatures of New York in early January.  I’ve been taking all kinds of over-the-counter medications and I think I’m feeling better but it comes and goes.  I know I’m not contagious so that’s a good thing; right now, it’s mostly a stuffy nose and a slight cough.  There’s no way I would miss the opportunity to spend another day at the Alden School.

Morning came early again and my alarm went off at 6:30am.  We (Ethan, Alan, and I) were in the lobby by 7:15am and at the school by 7:45am.  Our first class came into the meeting area promptly at 8am and we were off.  This morning was filled with little “miracles” as we watched students with autism have a “Gerstalt Moment” – that instant where things “clicked” and they understood the “mystery” of the trick and not just the movements required to perform it.  We watched them self-correct so they could do each movement in the right way so the magic would happen.  And I watched one exceptional young non-verbal autistic man teach another classmate the trick.  Does it get any better than that?

Class after class, magical moment following magical moment – this was an inspiring way to begin a Thursday….and two days in Jacksonville that I will never forget!

JACKSONVILLE, FL – DAY ONE

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Today was the most special day and one that I’m sure I’m not going to be able to put into adequate words.  I had the privilege of working with some of the most exceptional students I’ve ever worked with – the students of Alden Road Exceptional Student Center. I spent the morning with Ethan and Alan teaching magic tricks to students with exceptionalities – physical and mental challenges that would dampen the spirit of most of us.  Yet, somehow, these kids were filled with life and laugher that was only magnified with the mastery of each trick.

Erik Hart, the executive director of the Florida Theatre (the sponsor of the workshop and the performance on Saturday night) met us at the school bright and early. We started  promptly at 8:15am with our first group of students.  The morning moved along smoothly from class to class until we had completed five sessions by 12noon.  Teachers were impressed and enthusiastic by the skills their students achieved in such a short amount of time.  And many of the kids came to the front of the room to perform for their classmates.

Katie and Kendall, also from the Florida Theatre, joined us mid-morning to watch and experience the Hocus Focus Project in action.  After we wrapped up the morning session “The K-girls” took us to lunch – a chance to relax after a busy morning.  After lunch, we made our way back over to the Alden Road Student Center for a 1:15pm workshop with the teachers.  This was an opportunity for them to learn the tricks in a different environment and think through the potential benefits for their students.  We had a great time – what a fantastic day!

Tomorrow morning, we’ll do workshops again with another group of students starting at 8am.  After the workshops, we’re on our way to Flagler Auditorium in Bunnell for a show on Friday night and then back to Jacksonville for the performance on Saturday.

ELIZABETH CITY, NC – DAY TWO

Monday, January 18th, 2010

After a great day of working with students at Sheep Harney Elementary School and Sylvan Learning Center, we kicked into gear on Friday to load in the show and get ready for the 7:30pm performance at the McGuire Theatre.  I also found that we made the front page of the newspaper with the education work we did.

We made our way from the hotel to the theatre, parked the truck and started hauling cases.  The crew was there to greet us – it was a long way to the stage…truck through a small door, down a hallway, into an elevator, and into the theatre.

We had a sold out crowd for the evening show and wanted to give them the best show possible.  We were told that the show sold out quickly and they could have easily sold out a second performance.  Cindy strategically placed the cases to utilize every square inch of the stage.  We were slammed – side to side, into every corner.

Doors opened promptly at 7pm and an enthusiastic audience made their way into the theatre.  The show went very well and we had some great volunteers assist through the performance.

A big thank you to the people of Elizabeth City, Ray, John, Debra, and the entire team at the Center for the Arts – we had a great time!

Once it was over, we had to tear down quickly.  We had a bit of a drive in front of us with a 7:30AM load in for two shows on Saturday.  It would be a short night for sure!

ELIZABETH CITY, NC – DAY ONE

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

We arrived in Elizabeth City, NC on Wednesday night…and Thursday morning came quickly with a 6:30am alarm!  I met up with John Gillis from the Arts of the Albermarle around 7:30am to  go over to Sheep-Haney Elementary School.  I had made arrangements with the Principal of the school to conduct several Hocus Focus workshops with 4th and 5th grade students.

Ethan, Alan, and I spent 45 minutes in each classroom working with students, teaching them several different magic tricks to help them grasp abstract concepts, improve their concentration and memory skills, and to work on fine and gross motor coordination.  It was a very cool experience for us and for the students.  We received lots of positive feedback from everyone who participated in the workshops, especially from the educators and the principal.

Once we were back at the hotel, we all met up for a quick lunch at the local Burger King and then made our way Downtown to check out the McGuire Theatre.  Cindy wanted to scope the venue before the performance so she would have a better idea of how to load in and what we can get onto the stage.

It should be a fantastic show tomorrow night – the performance is completely sold out and word is we could have easily sold tickets for two or three more performances.  Unfortunately, we’ll be driving immediately after the McGuire Theatre show to get to Richmond, VA for a 7:30am load in on Saturday for two performances there!

After visiting the theatre, we went back to the hotel where John picked us up again (me, Ethan, and Alan) to head over to the Sylvan Learning Center for another workshop with students.  This one was also a great experience for everyone – educators, parents, students, and my team.  It was a great way to end the day…

In the parking lot of the Sylvan Learning Center, there was a very cool van for an electrical company…check out this picture!

NEW YORK, NY

Monday, January 11th, 2010

This is my last day in New York City, finishing up a series of meetings and then flying back home to Virginia on Tuesday.  We hit the road on Wednesday for the first performances of 2010.  Please check out the tour schedule and, if we’re in your area, come see the show.

If you missed my interview on FOX & FRIENDS on Sunday, someone was kind enough to send me this link to the “after-the-show show” interview – much more casual and relaxed.

Hopefully, I’ll see many of your on the road….