Archive for February, 2010

KEY WEST – DAY 3

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

After relaxing for a couple of days in Key West, it was time to go to work.  The show was at the beautiful and intimate Tennessee Williams Center for the Arts.  We’ve been here many times over the years and love the audience on the island.  I knew it was going to be a fun show the day it was booked.

We arrived at 10:30am and the tech guys were waiting for us at the dock.  We’ve worked with some of these guys a few times.  When we know the crew and the crew knows us, it really makes for a relaxed and productive day.  Matt, Ron, Coral, Durf, Duffy, and Beach kept things rolling along and set up went very smoothly.

Once finished tech, it was dinner time.  Frank always takes great care of us here…and this time he catered in Cuban food for us.  Wow, it was delicious!  We enjoyed the food in the green room where there is a door that leads outside with a great view of the gulf.  About 15 minutes before doors opened, Cindy came running into the dressing room to let me know there was a great view of the sunset.  All of us went outside to catch a glimpse of spectacular!

Doors opened, the audience found their seats, the show started – and from the very first illusion to the last, the crowd did not disappointment me.  Great volunteers and big responses to the magic.  It was the perfect way to end our February tour!

KEY WEST – DAY 2

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Alan joined me this morning for a 3-mile run before breakfast.  It was “brisk” at 7:30am with temperatures around 58 degrees and a nice wind coming off the ocean.  I never thought about “wind chill” in South Florida but it certainly factored in this morning!  After breakfast, I made a few phone calls, caught up on some email, and did a couple of media interviews for upcoming shows next week in Georgia and New Jersey.

After a shower, Cindy and I met up with Alan and Ethan and we drove back to historic downtown Key West.  We spent the rest of the day on there, several hours, walking Duval Street and strolling through Mallory Square.

We attempted to watch the sunset at Mallory Square but a giant cruise ship left dock at 6pm, just as the sun was beginning to set.  It completely blocked the view of those who wanted to watch – a Key West tradition.  Cindy managed to capture one or two pictures but we missed the majority of the “experience.”

KEY WEST, FL

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

We left Alabama for Florida on Sunday afternoon.  We didn’t want to rush through this trip since we’d had a fairly busy last few days.  We made our way down the Florida Turnpike to US 1 and on to Key West.  Many parts of the drive are beautiful, surrounded by the ocean, and going through some great towns along the way.  Once we arrived, we dropped our huge trailer off at the loading dock of Tennessee Williams Center for the Arts in preparation for our Friday show.  And then we got all checked into our hotel.

The day started today with an interview on US 1 Radio with the morning team.  We had a great time and I hope it generates some interest in the show.  But first, we have some time to enjoy the island before the performance on Friday night.  I picked up a rental car and we took off for historic downtown.  We parked downtown by Mallory Square and walked the streets.  I can up on an interesting establishment:

It’s been RAINING like crazy here for several days.  As we walked through town, the skies would just open and pour rain.  We stopped in at CHEESE BURGER for dinner, waved at some friends and family on their webcam, and then checked out some of the local shops.  The rain started coming down so hard we finally decided to abandon our adventure…but not before stopping off to get a crepe at one of the shops.

After walking through Mallory Square to get to the car, the wind started picking up and the rain started up again.  The road were flooding and we even got stranded on a few occasions.  Here’s a quick picture I snapped of the street.

MERRIMACK HALL – HUNTSVILLE, AL

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

After that first day in Huntsville, I think we were all exhausted.  The day started early and ended late but what a great day it was!  When I arrived in Huntsville, there were only a handful of tickets remaining for the two performances.  By the time we wrapped up the morning media on Thursday, we were sold out and they were selling “standing room” tickets.

Merrimack Hall is a great space with historical significance.  The two people behind this project are Debra and Alan Jenkins…and they’ve hired a great team of people to work with them.  What I appreciate most is their commitment to impacting people’s lives through the arts – on and off the stage.  One of their programs is called DANCE YOUR DREAMS designed for special needs to kids.  You’ve got to check it out – it’s an inspiring project.

FRIDAY

While the rest of the team went over to Merrimack hall to load in and begin setting up for the evening performance, I began my Friday morning with a second visit to St. Jude Children’s Hospital accompanied by Hayley and Ashley.  As you walk through the door of the hospital, one of the first things you will see is the Wall of Heroes – photographs of children who have won their battle with cancer and are pursuing their dreams.  The sign next to their photos reads:

WE HONOR THESE BRAVE CHILDREN WHO HAVE PERSEVERED WITH SMILES, LAUGHTER, AND OPTIMISM IN SPITE OF THEIR ILLNESSES.  THESE YOUNG WARRIORS ARE AN INSPIRATION TO ALL OF US AND REMIND US THAT LIFE IS PRECIOUS.

I think it’s important for you to understand that I’m doing more than simply performing for these children when I go to the hospital. There are many clowns and magicians across the country who take their time to do this – and it’s a great cause.  But what I do is teach the children some simple tricks so they can perform for their families and friends.  Learning these tricks builds their confidence and gives them the ability to do something that most people can’t do.  That “gift” helps their self-esteem and self-concept.  Just look at Connor when he performed this trick for the group!

After wrapping up at the Children’s Hospital, I was on my way to Merrimack Hall to help the guys with the rest of set up.  The day ran very smoothly thanks in large part to the experience of my guys and the professionalism of the technical team, Matt and Ernie.  We placed all the illusions, focused lights, and set cues.  Before we knew it, we were ready for that first show and dinner was on the table.

We opened the doors early to help move the audience into their seats quickly.  The house was packed – Standing Room Only.  And the crowd was energetic and enthusiastic!  We had some great volunteers on the stage throughout the evening making for a lively show.  And in the lobby afterwards, I had the chance to make a lot of new friends…and catch up with some from my past who came to the show.  And I met a few of the area magicians as well whose support is always appreciated.

SATURDAY

Saturday morning was a very special workshop for some of the DANCE YOUR DREAMS kids and several other special needs children from the community.  The HOCUS FOCUS project is designed for kids with physical and mental challenges including Autism and ADHD.  We had a wonderful group for the workshop and the next two hours went so quickly, it was hard to believe.  They learned lots of tricks and many of them stood before the group and performed.  We had several Stars on the stage that morning.

The workshop was held at Merrimack Hall’s dance studio so, when it was over, we didn’t have far to go to get to the stage.  The rest of the team arrived right after lunch and we ordered some Thai food before we began getting ready for the second sold out show in Huntsville.

Another great audience for Saturday night wrapped up the perfect three days here.  The folks at Merrimack Hall spoiled us!  Their hospitality and genuine enthusiasm for their work made it a privilege to be a part of the vision they have for Huntsville.  We are already talking about coming back in 2011/2012.  Thanks to the entire team for all your hard work!  And thank you Huntsville for supporting our show!

HUNTSVILLE, AL – DAY ONE

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

We arrived in Huntsville on Wednesday night after two days of driving in snow from Bethesda, MD.  After checking into our hotel, we decided to take the team to Ruth’s Chris Steak House for dinner.  It would be a nice treat for everyone and a great way to start our extended stay in town.

Thursday morning came VERY early for me.  Ashely (from Merrimack Hall) picked me up bright and early at 4:30am for a series of television appearances on WHNT’s “On the Road with Robert Reeves.”  I was slated for 5:25am, 6:25am, 7:15am, and 7:45am segments with Mr. Reeves.  We had a great time – performing magic, teaching magic, talking about the upcoming performances at Merrimack hall, and exploring some of the things I would be doing at Huntsville Children’s Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

After finishing up with WHNT (CBS), Ashley dropped me back at the hotel so I could catch up on some emails and grab a quick bite of breakfast.  I managed to get quite a bit accomplished before Ashely picked me up again (this time with Ethan and Alan) to head over to WAAY TV (ABC) for the 11am news broadcast.  This was another fun interview with Haley, the news anchor, and we squeezed in a lot in 3 minutes!

After wrapping up at WAAY TV, we meet up with Hayley (from Merrimack Hall) for lunch at Shay’s.  This is a local establishment that serves some incredible food!  And then we made our way over to Huntsville Children’s Hospital to work with Melissa, a child life specialist, and some of the kids and their families.  I mostly went from room to room to see the kids but we did manage to catch up with a few of them at St. Jude’s.  We had a great time working with James and Dylan.

We worked/played at the hospital with lots of patients for a couple of hours before the next big event of the day.  Thursday night, I presented a workshop for therapists and doctors on the Healing of Magic program.  We had a fun group of people – doctors, therapists, magicians, and volunteers from the hospital.

Tomorrow, we would load in the show….

BETHESDA, MD

Monday, February 15th, 2010

It was another early morning as we left the hotel at 7:42am to head over to Strathmore Music Hall.  Today was their annual family open house and the theme was DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF STRATHMORE.  We were the featured performers for the event along with several other activities that highlighted all that the Strathmore has to offer.  It is a very cool event!

We arrived right on time and were greeted by John, the Technical Director of the venue, and Billy, the lead stage technician.  As we walked up the stairs to stage level, we met the rest of the local IATSE 22 crew who were working hard.  We had about 3 hours to do what would normally take us about 7 hours.  And there was the added challenge of converting this concert hall into a proscenium theatre – now that would be magic!

While Ethan and Billy worked on unloading the trailer into the freight elevator, the rest of the guys were working on stage to hang curtains, raise lighting trusses, and start the “conversion process.”  I have to say it was impressive to watch these guys go to work and make this happen.  Cindy, Ethan, and Alan were all working on the details of putting our show together.  Keith was working with both the sound tech and lighting guy on some of those details.  We got my microphone checked and ready before moving on to the lighting.  Here’s the way the concert hall looked before they started the transformation….

And here is the way it all started coming together….it’s quite impressive!

By the time they were finished, the stage looked just like a theatre – not a concert hall.  These guys were amazing and we all enjoyed working with them throughout the day.

After the stage was set, Keith and I started working with Lyle to write the cues for this show.  We didn’t hang our intelligent lighting (to save some time) and they had several fixtures already in the air.  Keith opted to use their light board because it would make it much easier.  Once the cues were written, Keith quickly got a house level for the music, a fast monitor check and level, and the doors opened to the first event of the day at 11am.  Our first performance would start at 12:15pm, immediately following this event.

We had fun audiences for both performances – good responses and some very funny volunteers.  As soon as our 1:30pm show was over, the crew kicked back into high gear to help us get down our backdrop and get the equipment back into the truck.  Ethan and Alan disassembled the illusions as they came off the stage, got them in their cases, and rolled them back into the freight elevator.  By the time the show was over, it was only minutes before we were all ready to load out the show.

I want to say a HUGE thank you to the entire team at Strathmore and IATSE 22 for making our day much easier than we had anticipated…and being so much fun to work with!  I don’t think we were the only ones doing “magic” on this stage today!

Now, we’re on our way to Alabama…where it’s snowing today.

HOLLY SPRINGS CULTURAL CENTER, NC

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

With two shows on Saturday and an early morning load in, we made the decision to wait out the snow storm in Monroe, NC and make the drive to Holly Springs the following morning.  We were up early on Saturday and it was going to be a long day…

The drive took a little longer because of road conditions – lots of black ice and snow patches on the highways.  We pulled into Holly Springs around 10am and started to hit it hard.  Our first show was at 3pm so we had little time to unload and set up.  The good news was that ticket sales had picked up considerably once the snow had passed and the city streets were clean and clear.

The Holly Springs Cultural Center is a beautiful, intimate space – much smaller than we are accustomed to working in.  The backstage area was as much a magical mystery as what was happening on the stage.  Cindy did an exceptional job of finding space for many of the big illusions.  And Alan and Ethan did a great job during the performances of moving it around and getting it into place.  One thing is for certain – the magic was bigger than life on that stage and the audience was closer than ever.  It was amazing to be able to see the expressions and responses on every face in the audience!

Our first show was at 3pm and we had a very mixed audience  but grandparents and children made up most of the crowd.  The evening show was our more traditional audience – young adults, families, and couples.  Both shows went very well and I was pleased with the crowd reactions and the way the show looked on the stage.

There were a few magicians at both shows as well.  I had the chance to talk briefly with them afterwards – always great to have the support of the area magicians!

We’re driving today to Bethesda, MD where, on Monday, we will be a part of the MAGIC OF THE STRATHMORE.  We have two shows on Monday back-to-back…and then we are finally heading south again.  This time to Alabama…though I just heard that 49 states had snow this weekend.

BATTE FINE ARTS CENTER – WINGATE, NC

Friday, February 12th, 2010

We arrived promptly at 11am to begin loading in for our 7:30pm performance tonight at the George Batte Fine Arts Center on the campus of Wingate University in North Carolina.

It’s a really beautiful space and Peter and his crew were ready for us when arrived.  They worked hard to get in all those heavy cases in spite of cold temperatures.  There was a Winter Storm Advisory for the area as we left the hotel….it was eventually upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning.  With this impending “blizzard” on the way (it was supposed to arrive around 5pm), I was concerned about the number of people that might brave the cold and snow.

Load in went smoothly – backdrops were in the air, intelligent lighting was in place, illusions were assembled, wardrobe was in order, lobby was set up, and before we knew it, it was dinner time!

5pm came and so did the snow!  Lots and lots of snow! And it just didn’t stop.  The Box Office was answer dozens and dozens of phone calls from people wanting to know if the  show was still “on.”  We were going to be ready to go and just pray that people show up.

When the doors opened, there was a crowd waiting to get to their seats.  And by 7:30pm, we were sold out – not one ticket remained – and they were turning people away at the doors.  I was stunned – and excited!  We were the first “sold out” performance of the 2010/2011 Batte Performing Arts Series.  And we had a record-breaking number of college students at the show as well!

The audience was enthusiastic and we had some great volunteers on stage during the show.  We opted not to do an intermission in tonight’s show so we could get the audience out of the theatre before the snow became worse.  When the show was over, I ran to the lobby.  As I looked outside, I was amazing at how much snow had already hit the ground – about 6″ in less than four hours.

We are supposed to be at the Holly Springs Cultural Center for two shows on Saturday.  I’m not sure that’s going to be possible.  They are also under a Winter Storm Advisory until 10am on Saturday.  And the roads here in Monroe are in horrible condition.  It could be an interesting day!

With no place to go for food, the guys ended up raiding the vending machines at the hotel for some after-the-show nourishment.

A BIG thank you to Larry, Teresa, Peter, the crew, and the incredible audience who braved the weather and helped us have a fantastic experience in Wingate, NC!!

HERE WE GO AGAIN…

Monday, February 8th, 2010

This from the National Weather Service:

… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 5 AM TUESDAY TO 5 AM EST WEDNESDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BLACKSBURG HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW AND SLEET… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 5 AM TUESDAY TO 5 AM EST WEDNESDAY.

* SNOW WILL BEGIN TUESDAY MORNING. SLEET WILL MIX IN WITH THE SNOW TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

* 2 TO 4 INCHES OF SNOW AND SLEET ARE EXPECTED.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW… SLEET… OR FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES… AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.

DIGGING OUT!

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

We’ve been pretty much stranded on the top of the mountain since this storm started coming in on Thursday night.  I have no idea just how much snow is out there but, guessing, I’d say we have somewhere around 12-14 inches on the hill.  I spent part of the day yesterday digging out the jeep and getting it to the top of the driveway.

Cindy let Carter outside so he could play in the snow.  He loves it when it’s like powder – not so much when it’s icy.  He’s more talented than we thought though.  As I started back into the house, I noticed he’d built a snowman!

Okay, so he took a little bite out of the snowman’s head but, other than that, he did a fairly good job….for a dog!

After digging out the jeep, Cindy and I decided to venture off the mountain and explore.  We made it easily down the hill where we found the main roads clean and clear.  My first stop was Five Guys Burgers & Fries (Cindy chose to go to Subway next door).  I love these burgers!

We stopped at a few other places – Barnes & Noble Bookstore, Pier One, and TJ Maxx.  After a little fun, it was time to head back home.  I still needed to dig out the car and it was at the bottom of the driveway!  That only took about 2.5 hours.  Have I mentioned how much I dislike the snow?