Archive for March, 2010

AFTER THE MAC CRASH, I’M BACK!

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Ok, I’ll be playing catch up on my blog these next few days.  My Mac crashed – had some issues that’s kept me from being able to do anything.  But now, I’m fixed and running again.

I’ll be posting the next few days on our show in Palos Hills, IL and Bradford, PA – two sold out performances for fantastic audiences!

THE HILLMAN CENTER – SHADYSIDE, PA

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

After the show at the Kirby Center in Wilkes Barre, we had to hit the road and drive across the state of Pennsylvania to get to Pittsburgh.  It was a LONG drive!  And, as someone told us, the orange construction cone is the state animal of PA – they are everywhere!  We finally pulled into the loading dock of the Hillman Center for Performing Arts around 12noon.

The crew was ready, at the dock, waiting for us to back into place.  As soon as Cindy scoped the stage for placement, cases came rolling into the building.  We needed to work quickly to get the show up and ready before 7pm (door would open at 6:15pm).  Everyone kicked into gear – including the entire crew of the Hillman Center (hard workers).  We made it with time to spare…and I was very pleased with the way the stage looked.

Sarah, the executive director, was expected a full house – their first sold-out performance since they opened six years ago.  After the show, she sent me this email,

The Spencers were the first-ever show we’ve had that completely sold out! What amazed us more was the audience: a total mix of kids, tweens, teens, twenty-somethings, parents and grandparents, all enraptured!  We’ve never presented a group with such universal appeal!

And they were a GREAT audience!  What a wonderful evening in a beautiful theatre!

From the Hillman Center, we hit the road again to head for Chicago…..

F.M. KIRBY CENTER – WILKES BARRE, PA

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

After a great day at the John Heinz Rehabilitation Institute, we were ready to get the show on the stage of the F.M. Kirby Center for an evening performance.  We had a great article in the local paper about our day at Heinz and there was a nice blurb in the Weekend Entertainment publication promoting the show.  We met up with the local IATSE 82, got the stage ready, and started bringing in the cases.

We were expecting a good crowd for the evening show.  And there was a sense of excitement about us being here.  That’s always a great feeling.  The day moved along easily, no major hurdles or challenges.  And, in the end, I was pleased with the lighting and the way the stage looked.  For us, it’s more than simply doing magic tricks on the stage.  It is about creating an experience – a theatrical experience – for our audience.

We had a great crowd for the show – a fun an enthusiastic audience!  I spent a long time in the lobby after the show listening to the comments from members of the crowd, signing autographs, and getting some pictures taken.  While I was doing this, the team was packing down the show so we could hit the road for Pittsburgh.  We had a long drive ahead of us….

Thanks Wilkes Barre, Mark, Drew, Fran, and the entire team at the F.M. Kirby Center for making our time there fun and meaningful.

JOHN HEINZ REHAB INSTITUTE

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I spent the morning and part of the afternoon working at the John Heinz Rehabilitation Institute in Wilkes Barre, PA.  The morning started with a short drive to the facility.  Joanie picked us up (me, Alan, and Ethan) and drove us there.  We brought in our things and set up for the first workshop of the morning.

About 30 therapists – physical, occupational, and speech – I launched into the inservice project.  We sat around tables, learning several tricks that could be used right away with their patients in the afternoon.  It’s always fun to watch their faces when the “magic” works – they laugh and gasp, puzzled expressions on their faces.  I asked them to transfer those emotions to their patients – people who have suffered strokes or brain injuries (their clients here).  We ended up having an inspiring and educational time together – fun for everyone!

After the workshop with therapists, several very special clients came into the room.  We worked with each of them, teaching them specific tricks that would help them reach their therapeutic goals.  It’s more than learning magic tricks.  It’s learning magic tricks that will HELP YOU get better, reach your goals, improve your fine motor skills and gross motor coordination, and so much more.  HEALING OF MAGIC is a program that is all about helping people get well…in a fun and motivating way!

KENNEDY CENTER & ON THE ROAD

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Monday was a very busy day for me.  I had a few errands to run early and then I was on my way to Washington, DC.  I had an afternoon meeting at the Kennedy Center for the Arts and then planned to attend a workshop that evening.  First, I met up with Rebecca from the Kennedy Center Theatre for the Young.  She gave me the tour of this amazing building – 7 theatres in all!  And in one of the corridors, just off the Hall of Nations, is a gigantic sculpture of John F. Kennedy.

I also had a brief meeting with Melanie Layne, one of the coordinators of the Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) program. I am being considered to be a teacher artist with my Hocus Focus project.  This meeting was a great opportunity for me to meet with Melanie, face to face.  I also had the great pleasure of attending one of the Kennedy Center workshops defining “arts integration” in the schools.  It was very beneficial, insightful, and brought me a lot of clarity on how to move forward with my own project.

Today, we left Lynchburg for Wilkes-Barre, PA.  We arrived around 5pm, checked into our hotel, and got some dinner.  Tomorrow, I’ll be working with therapists and clients at the John Heinz Rehabilitation Institute.  Friday night, 7:30pm, we will perform at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Arts.

SPRING IN VIRGINIA

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

It’s been very nice to be home for a few days.  The temperatures in Virginia are finally warming up and getting back to normal.  It’s great to see the flowers blooming, trees budding, and plants starting to grow.

I’ve been trying to enjoy this time off the road while attempting to get caught up on all the things in the office that get neglected while traveling.  I’ve been working very hard this week to solidify our 2010/2011 tour schedule.  It should be online soon and I’m happy with the way things are coming together for next season.

I’ve also been working on the HOCUS FOCUS project.  I am very close to having this completed and, now, have more incentive to get it done.  I’ve been invited to speak at the international conference on special education in Riga, Latvia in June.  I need to finish the curriculum and pull together a presentation for this group of educators and professionals.  More on all of that later…

Tomorrow (Monday, 3/15), I’ll be driving to Washington, DC for a meeting at the Kennedy Center.  I’m being considered for their CETA program – Changing Education Through the Arts – as a teaching artist.  This would give me additional opportunities to work with educators on the Hocus Focus project.

Lots of projects in the works…

NEW JERSEY PERFORMANCES

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Now that the dust has settled and I’m back in the office, I thought it was time to write about the most excellent experience we had last weekend in New Jersey.  After our show in Newnan, GA, we made the drive up the interstate to colder temperatures.  The first stop was the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ.

RED BANK, NJ – COUNT BASIE THEATRE

We performed at the Count Basie Theatre several years ago.  They were undergoing a major renovation at the time.  Well, it was well worth the investment because this theatre is spectacular!  We arrived around 10:30am and pulled to the loading area.  Before we could start unloading the truck, there were several things that needed to be moved around the stage and into storage to make space for all of our cases.

There were a few challenges throughout the day but the team managed them well.  Cindy always amazes me at what she can make fit into small areas.  She is definitely the real miracle-working in this group!  Once things were in place, the day started for all of us – assembling illusions, hanging scenery and lighting, tech rehearsal, etc.  In the end, the stage looked great and we were ready for the show.

When the doors opened for the 7:30pm performance, you could hear the audience make their way into the theatre.  You could feel the excitement and I got a sense that this was going to be a great show.  From the moment we took the stage to the final illusion, this audience was spectacular.  In all the years we’ve been performing, Cindy and I would consider this show one of the top five of our best audiences and performances.  Afterwards, in the lobby, I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with those who chose to stick around…including several of the area magicians.

THANK YOU to everyone in Red Bank who supported our show, to the crew for a great day (Mike, Anthony, and the guys), and to the staff at the Count Basie Theatre (especially Numa) for taking such good care of us!

ENGLEWOOD, NJ – BERGEN PAC

The next morning, we were up early to make the 75 minute drive to Englewood.  You can never judge how traffic is going to be in Northern New Jersey so we needed to give ourselves plenty of time.  We arrived a few minutes before our scheduled arrival.  Backing a big truck into the loading dock here poses several challenges.  A major shopping center has grown up around the theatre narrowing the roads, restricting the turn radius to the entrance, and the traffic is constant.

I made it into the loading dock and we all went inside the theatre to meet up with the crew.  This is our third or fourth appearance at BergenPAC so we know these guys fairly well.  It’s great when you can work with a crew who is willing to have a little fun during the day while staying focused on getting the show ready.  These guys are great – and we had a very easy day as a result of it all.

Tickets for the show had been selling very well and we were only a handful away from selling out this 1311 seat venue.  The mix of the audience was awesome – families, young adults, and seniors.  This is, without a doubt, our favorite type of audience.  It should be a fun night.

We loaded in and started the “process” that is our “day at the office.”  I was very pleased with the way things came together.  The “theatre” of our production was evident and that always gets me excited.  I’m very proud of my team who work hard to make sure there is consistency in what we bring to our audiences – regardless of limitations, they work hard to make sure the show always looks the same.

The Englewood audience did not disappoint us.  We had a packed house of lively people ready to be amazed!  The enthusiasm of an audience makes all the difference in the world to a performer.  That energy “feeds” you on stage – the performer gives back what he receives from the crowd.  And this was a very generous audience!

THANK YOU to everyone who came back to see us at BergenPAC!  This is one of those rare places on the road where you feel like you’re working with family!

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – SOPAC

We stayed the night in Englewood and woke up early (once again) to make the 60 minute drive to South Orange.  On this day, we had a 3pm matinee so we needed to be at the theatre by 8am.

As we pulled to the loading area, it was great to see Brian and his crew ready to go!  Cindy made her way to the stage to prepare for case placement while Keith talked with Brian about some pre-load in tech things.  Ethan and Alan scoped their necessary areas and I evaluated the light hang to figure out where our intelligent fixtures would end up.

Once all that was done, we started bringing in the cases.  Everyone worked very hard and we had no major challenges.  It was a good day thanks to a good team and a good crew.

We had a sold out show and a very nice age range in the crowd.  Good volunteers made for some perfect audience moments!  This was the perfect end to a perfect weekend in New Jersey.  So, THANK YOU SOPAC and all the people who came to see us perform!

NEWNAN, GA

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

We have had a VERY busy week since we left Key West.  Driving up the coast, we made our way to the first stop on our trip “north” just outside of Atlanta in Newnan, GA.  Our show was at the Centre for the Performing Arts of Coweta County.  Working with Don Nixon and his team is just like working with family – they make us feel right at home.

We arrived at the venue just as the snow – yes, snow – starting coming down hard in Georgia.  It’s hard to believe that, in spite of our “southern tour” in January and February, we still experienced some of the coldest temperatures in the country!

The entire day went very smoothly.  John and his guys were awesome, even taking some time to make a few repairs on some of our “road-weary” equipment.  Before we knew it, it was time for dinner.  And what a spread they had for us!  The hospitality here is simply impressive in every way.  They really know how to treat artists like family – and we did feel like family.

After dinner, we had a technical rehearsal with the crew.  Doors opened at 7pm and an enthusiastic audience made their way into the theatre.  I had some very special guests at this performance as well.  Kevin Crosby and the Celtic Crossroads were in the crowd.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go out with them afterwards with a big travel day ahead of me on Wednesday.  Nonetheless, it was good to see them.

Just for fun, Cindy snapped this photo of me wearing a pair of sunglasses that we found on the stage, obviously from a more “youthful” performance.

WEEKEND IN NEW JERSEY

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

We have a busy weekend in New Jersey.  Friday night we’re at the Count  Basie Theatre in Red Bank; Saturday at the BergenPAC in Englewood; and Sunday at the South Orange Performing Arts Center.  I’m not going to have a lot of time to blog but, I promise, I’ll be posting again on Monday about the weekend.  It should be a great one!

TRAVELING THROUGH FLORIDA

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

We spent most of the last two days driving from Key West to the Atlanta area.  It was relaxing and we took our time, stopping along the way in Orlando at one of our favorite malls – The Florida Mall.

This morning, we finished the drive and arrived in Newnan, GA in the late afternoon.  I took some time to try and catch up on email and phone calls.  I don’t think I made much of a dent but it was a worthy effort.

Tomorrow we perform at the Centre for Performing Arts of Coweta County.  This is a beautiful theatre and this will be our second time here in the last five years.  Just a few moments ago, the National Weather Service issued a WINTER STORM WARNING for the area.  Yes, Atlanta might get more snow…in March.  I’m beginning to think it’s the end of the world.