Archive for January, 2011

ALYS STEPHENS CENTER – BIRMINGHAM, AL

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

We drove fro Fort Lauderdale, FL to Birmingham, AL in a couple of days.  It was good to be able to make the drive at a leisurely pace after the schedule of the last few days.  Along the way, the truck was starting to drive very rough.  I had a front end alignment a few days ago but the ride was really difficult.  We stopped at a truck stop somewhere in the panhandle of Florida and bought a couple of new drive/front tires.  Wow, what a difference!!  So, in spite of the $1100, it was worth the price to ride in more comfort.

Once we arrived in Birmingham, we drove over to the Alys Stephens Center to drop the trailer.  Adam, the TD, met us on the corner a couple of blocks from the venue and directed us to the loading dock.  Once we dropped the trailer, we got checked into the hotel.  The next morning would start early with a radio interview on MAGIC 95.6.  Lannie (from ASC) picked us up at the hotel and got us to the station.  Rob, the morning show host, was fun and energetic which made for an enjoyable interview.

Once we wrapped at the station, we spent the rest of the day working with physical and occupational therapists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (which has one of the most progressive academic departments in the nation).  We ended the evening with a 3-hour workshop for therapists.

The next day was the best.  It all started when Kimberly picked us up at the hotel and drove us over to FOX 6 for an appearance on Birmingham’s #1 morning show – GOOD DAY ALABAMA.  These hosts were great!  I even made the weather guy disappear live on television…you’ll have to check out the video once I get it posted.

Next stop was one of the area high school where we worked with a special group of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  And then we spent the afternoon working at the Exceptional Center, a day care program for people of all ages with learning differences.  We had some exceptional students learning magic tricks!

I woke up to find a cool picture on the front page (above the fold)Friday night was the performance at the Alys Stephens Center on the campus of the University of Alabama.   We were sold out with an amazing audience who honored us with a standing ovation.  Everyone at the ASC made us feel like family – we even had an information luncheon with the staff and crew.

Thank you Birmingham for a warm reception – and thank you Jessica, Kimberly, Sharon, Natalie, Eric, Lannie, Adam (and the entire tech team), and everyone at the Alys Stephens Center for a fantastic experience!!

LARGO TO FT. LAUDERDALE, FL

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The last few days have been incredibly busy.  I’m not even sure where to begin.  After an amazing week in Stuart, FL working with the Lyric Theatre, Martin Memorial Hospital, and the Education Foundation, we were on our way to Largo and the Largo Cultural Center.

LARGO, FL

We arrived on Wednesday night in order to be ready for a Tuesday morning visit to the Palms Children’s Center.  This is a pediatric rehabilitation facility with some pretty cool clients.  The group was assembled in the activities room when I arrived ready to get started.  I performed a few small tricks and then started teaching them some magic.  Alan and Chase were there to jump in and help – and I needed all the help I could get.  The kids were great – enthusiastic and the room was soon filled with smiles and laughter.  It was a great way to start the day!

After the morning workshop, we grabbed some lunch and then went back to the hotel.  I tried to catch up on as much office work as I could before the evening workshop.  I would be conducting a master’s class workshop for magicians/therapists on Thursday night.  We had a great crowd – about 90 or so – and it was a very informal time of questions and answers.

Friday morning, we made our way to the Largo Cultural Theatre to begin load in for the evening performance.  This would be our first show in this venue though not our first visit to the area.  We had a fun audience Friday night – lots of energy!  There were even a few people there from my hometown in Indiana.  Wow, it was great to reconnect with them!

A big thanks to Rob and Joe for all their hard work – and for making our first visit to Largo so much fun!

After the show, we drove about 4.5 hours to get back to Fort Lauderdale.  We were in bed by 3:30am but load in would come very early.

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL

I’ve been looking forward to our return visit to the Parker Playhouse.  We had a great audience here a couple of years ago. The crew is awesome – so much fun to work with – and the team associated with the venue (Jill and Tate) are equally awesome.

We arrived at the loading dock around 8:30am.  Keith pushed load in back a bit so we could at least get 5 hours of sleep.  We had two shows at the Parker – 3pm and 8pm.  The crew met us at the loading dock, stage ready to go, and with a good attitude (they also had a late night).  Once everyone was signed in and badged, load in began.

The day moved along really well.  I love working with this crew – fun and professional.  We were set up in plenty of time to eat something before the 3pm show.  I’m always a bit nervous about matinee audiences but this one did not disappoint us!  They came in with lots of energy and kept it up throughout the performance.  The audience was a great mix of families and senior citizens.  I had some wonderful volunteers on the stage and, when the show was over, talked to tons of people in the lobby afterwards.

We re-set the show, had dinner, and then prepared for the second performance at 8pm.  This audience was very different from our first one.  There were very few children in the crowd and most people were age 20 – 60, a very nice “adult mix” in the theatre.  But their enthusiasm was amazing.  As soon as I hit the stage for the first illusion, they made me feel like a rock star…and they didn’t stop until I hit that last pose on the grand finale.  This audience was simply amazing!  They came ready to have a good time and (hopefully) they felt like that’s what they got.  It was truly a pleasure working with this audience!

Thanks to Jill, Tate, and the entire team at the Parker Playhouse for a wonderful day!

THE LYRIC THEATRE – STUART, FL

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

If you’ve been reading the blog, then you know we’ve been incredibly busy conducting professional development workshops for teachers and therapists here in Stuart.  I have had so much positive feedback from those who have been involved, it’s been overwhelming.  Only today, I heard from several therapists and teachers who attended the workshop on Wednesday.  This is just one of the comments we’ve received:

“I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the therapeutic magic program, Hocus Focus.  Kevin would demonstrate a “trick” and then request that we practice for 5 minutes.  He would then elicit input on the  value of the “trick” for cognitive, therapeutic, physical (range of motion, muscle control, handedness, cross-over ), emotional, and responses and resulting self-esteem. The entire group self-divided and practiced and discussed the “trick” and its value with total self and group commitment, mental concentration and laughter. The answers to his queries about what the importance these practices had for the learner were extensive, varied and very technical. I love hearing the rational about the value of the technical labels, especially the unfamiliar.  It was wonderful for MY body and soul. I hated to leave and I believe was not alone in that feeling. Thank you for this GREAT WORKSHOP!”

I can’t tell you how that makes me feel!  And we’ve received dozens of similar comments from therapists and educators.  Tomorrow (Tuesday), Alan and I will be spending the day working with exceptional students in the Martin County Schools.  I just know it’s going to be amazing.

Okay, the last couple of days we’ve been performing at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Stuart, FL.  We did two shows on Sunday and two shows today.  The audiences were great – and the team at the theatre made us feel right at home.  I’ll write more later….just getting back to the hotel after a long day and I have to get up early!

WORKSHOPS, KIDS, AND MORE!

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

It’s been an incredibly busy – and fulfilling – two and half days working with the therapists in the pediatric rehabilitation center of Martin Memorial Hospital in Stuart, FL.  These are some of the most passionate, caring, and enthusiastic therapists I have ever met. The genuine compassion for their clients and their dedication and determination to make a difference in their lives is impressive and compelling.

The first day of our visit was a workshop for pediatric therapists and teachers.  Alan and Chase were there to help them with the execution of the tricks as I taught them.  Several therapists had questions before the workshop started – questions that we get quite often from those who are excited (and a little anxious) to understand just how magic tricks can be incorporated into treatment…and make a difference for their clients.  The only answer I could offer was to ask them if we could talk again after the workshop, that I felt strongly they would “get it” once they started the process.  And when they learned their first magic trick, THEY DID GET IT!  The room erupted with laughter and excitement!  I could hear therapists talking – almost instantly – about the therapeutic benefits of a simple rubber band.  The day only got better from there…and, before I knew it, four hours had passed like minutes.

The second and third days were the best.  Those two days at Martin Memorial Pediatric Rehabilitation Center, we were there to work with some awesome kids.  When we walked through the doors on Thursday morning, there was an energy in the air that I knew was positive. This was going to be a fantastic day…and the next one too!

There are so many things I could write about this group of people but there are no words that can adequately describe these last two days.  I can tell you this, working with these kids will change you forever.  You see into their eyes, you feel their hearts, there is a connection that can’t be explained.  There were small miracles, big surprises, and memorable moments. Pictures say a thousand words…

HOCUS FOCUS WORKSHOP – STUART, FL

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

I’ve just spent the last few days in New York City attending a series of meetings.  Getting there was a bit of a challenge because weather in the Southeast has been unusual (to say the least).  But the biggest challenge came afterwards.

I was scheduled to be in Stuart, FL on Tuesday night in preparation for a Professional Development Workshop that I was presenting for Martin Memorial Hospital System.  There were some 30 therapists and teachers who had signed up for this workshop that started today (Wednesday) at 1pm.

I flew from NYC’s LaGuardia airport to Charlotte, NC for a connection into Lynchburg.  I left NYC around 1pm just as the storm started to bear down on the Southeast part of the country.  By the time I landed in Charlotte, I knew there was going to be trouble with my connection.  I needed to be in Lynchburg on time at 5:30pm.  Alan and Chase were to pick me up at the airport, swap my luggage, and then jump into the truck to start the drive to Florida.  We were originally schedule to spend the night in Rockingham, NC – about 4 hours down the road.  My flight continued to get delayed due to weather and mechanical issues.  As it turned out, the cargo door was first frozen closed and, once they opened it, it wouldn’t close again.  We finally boarded the plane around 6pm and then sat on the runway to be de-iced for another two hours.  It was nearly 9:30pm before I landed in Lynchburg (four hours late).  We made the switch and were on the road by 10:30pm.

We drove straight into the oncoming snow storm.  As we crossed into North Carolina, the snow was coming down hard – almost blinding at times.  We made a change to our reservation and pulled over in Reidsville, NC about 100 miles from home.

The next morning, we were on the road around 8am.  We needed to give the DOT time to get the roads in better condition.  For the most part, the roads were great.  They were a few stretches in North Carolina that were kind of scary though.  We stayed in ice and snow through North Carolina, South Carolina, and a good part of Georgia.  We were never so glad to see the ‘WELCOME TO THE SUNSHINE STATE” sign as we entered Florida!  As we wrapped up the drive, it was 768 miles in a single day – but we made it.

The workshop today went incredibly well.  It made the long day yesterday worth the drive!  The therapists and teachers were so excited to learn how to incorporate magic tricks as a new treatment and education tool.  The four hours just flew by and the workshop was over before we knew it.

The next two days will be spent working one-on-one with several pediatric clients who have Cerebral Palsy, Autism, or Downs Syndrome.  Thursday and Friday are packed and it’s going to be a blast!  Saturday we have a six hour workshop for adult rehabilitation therapists that’s going to be very rewarding and loads of fun.  Then two shows on Sunday and Monday at the Lyric Theatre….Tuesday, we are working in the Martin County Schools.  Wow, what a week!!

SPRUCE PEAK PERFORMING ARTS CENTER – STOWE, VT

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

We arrived in Stowe a few days before our show (thank you David) to enjoy the resort and the surroundings.  We took advantage of the slopes (well, at least the guys did) while Cindy and I enjoyed the spa.  Keith and I took in the James Taylor concert; and me and Cindy took advantage of the snow and went on a sleigh ride over the river and through the woods.  She was like a snow princess!  Later that night, we also watched the fireworks over the mountain – very cool!

SPRUCE PEAK PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

We had the great privilege of being a part of the grand opening week of events at the new Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in beautiful Stowe, VT.

The week of opening acts included:  An Evening with Ben Vereen; the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata; Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul; Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek); An Evening with James Taylor; and Spencers Theatre of Illusion.

The week of New Year’s is one of the busiest in the resort.  We had to leave the truck down the mountain about a mile because there would be no room for cars to park, etc.  The day of the show, I brought the truck up the mountain early, like 7:45am.  The crew all showed up around 8am and started clearing the stage in preparation for load in.  Once that was all done and Keith went through the safety/non-disclosure speech with everyone, they opened the trailer and started bringing things in.

The rest of the day moved along very well.  The crew here, under the direction of Tom Rowell, was outstanding.  They were attentive, hard-working, and ready to do whatever needed to be done to get the show up.  I can’t say enough good things about these guys.

Ticket sales had been very strong before we even arrived in Stowe.  And by show time we were sold out – over sold actually.  Doors opened, people came in, and then ushers started bringing in the chairs to set up extra seating.  And the audience was there to have a good time!  They were fun, energetic, enthusiastic, and very responsive.  David, the executive director, even did a little fire eating for us!

Our time in Stowe, VT was awesome.  And it looks like we’ll be going back in May for a residency and two more performances for the residents of Stowe.  I’m already looking forward to it!