Archive for February, 2011

SONDHEIM CENTER FOR THE ARTS – FAIRFIELD, IA

Monday, February 21st, 2011

We left Madisonville, KY to make the 8 hour drive to the Sondheim Center for the Arts.  This is a beautiful theatre nestled in the small community of Fairfield, IA.  Tickets had also been selling well here and, when we arrived, we had 70 tickets remaining for the “walk up” crowd.  We were well on our way to a sold out performance.

We arrived at the theatre loading dock to be met by Cevin and the guys.  The day moved along easily – a great crew met us at the loading dock to get all the equipment onto the stage.  Once everything was in, all of us jumped into action to begin working on the hundreds of details that make this show work.

Rustin, the executive director, has worked very hard to turn this place around over the last few months.  To say that this theatre got off to a rough start three years ago would be an understatement.  You can tell the community has a great deal of respect for him and he’s booked an amazing season of performers.  Doing good work goes a long way in building trust and a reputation.

Once set up was complete, I was very pleased with the way the stage looked.  I love walking into a large, empty stage and watching it transform into our production, THEATRE OF ILLUSION.  The theatre is the most magical place on earth!

Once the doors opened for the show, we were nearly at capacity.  The crowd brought with them an excitement that you could feel throughout the theatre.  We had a couple of “incidents” prior to the performance when our hazers set off the fire alarm – a very rare occurrence.  The audience hung in there as the staff handled the situation…and the show went on!  We wrapped the evening with a standing ovation from a wonderful audience!

Fairfield is the hometown of Doug Henning – the biggest magical influence in my career.  He and his wife, Debbie, lived here for many years while he was performing and after he retired.  After the show, I met dozens of people who knew Doug very well.  I had the chance to talk with them at length.  It was humbling to hear them say – over and over again – that I reminded them of Doug in many ways.

Thank you Rusting, Cevin, Beth, and the entire team at the Sondheim Theatre – and thank you Fairfield for all your support!!

GLEMA MAHR CENTER FOR THE ARTS – MADISONVILLE, KY

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

We spent two days in Madisonville, KY.  On that first day, I worked with several groups of great students from area schools with the Hocus Focus project.  I’m always amazed by the immediate results that can be observed when we start working with students – focus, attention, concentration, on task behaviors, social interactions, and self-confidence all become evident once they begin the program.

The second day, we brought the rig over to the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts to set up for the evening performance.  Tickets had been selling well.  There was a nice article in the local paper and I had a fun interview with Chason Fox & Ross on one of the area radio stations.  It all paid off with a full house of enthusiastic people!

We wrapped the show with a standing ovation from a wonderful audience.  Thank you Brad, P.J., and the entire team in Madisonville for a great day.  And thank you Madisonville for all your support!!

TILSON AUDITORIUM – TERRE HAUTE, IN

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

We have performed twice before in Tilson Auditorium – the first time was about 10 years ago on Valentine’s Day…and here we are again on Valentine’s Day.  We arrived around 11:30am to begin load in which is just a bit different from most venues. Our equipment is unloaded from our truck, into a large “box” attached to a forklift, and hoisted about 15 feet into the air and onto the stage.  It’s a pretty amazing load in!

Things went very smoothly…and the show went up very quickly!  The guys from the local IATSE 49 were great, worked hard, and made the day fun.

The venue provided a special Valentine’s Day banquet for those who decided to come early to the performance.  I took about 30 minutes to stroll through the room and introduce myself to all of those at the banquet.  Once I wrapped up there, it was time to open the doors to the theatre.

We had a great crowd for the show.  According to the executive director, this was his biggest crowd in the four years he has been programming events.  We had college students from Indiana State University, families, couples on dates, senior citizens – you name it, they were in the audience.  And they were ready for a good time – very enthusiastic and vocal!

We also had the chance to also meet up with some friends – Tom Pitts and his wife, Nolan and Kelsey, and Mike and Lynn (and Molly).  Always nice to see our friends!

Great volunteers always make the show and we had lots of them in Terre Haute.  Every trick elicited a gasp, a laugh, a smile, and lots of applause.  I got lots of feedback on my Facebook Fan Page as well!  This was one of our best audience of the season – THANK YOU TERRE HAUTE (and Jennifer, David, Brady, Don, and IATSE 49)!!

SCHAUER CENTER FOR THE ARTS – HARTFORD, WI

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

As we got close to Wisconsin, temperatures started to drop steadily.  By the time we made it to Hartford, temperatures we below zero.  Looks like this is the “cold leg” of the tour!  But as is generally the case, the hearts of the people of the town were warm, gracious, and friendly.

We got checked into our hotel and settled in for a few days.  That first morning I had a number of interviews to take care of – 3 radio interviews and 2 newspapers for upcoming shows.  Tom Robbins (executive director of the Schauer Center) picked Alan and I up around 12:30pm to head over to the Hartford Union High School.  We spent the afternoon with an amazing group of students working with them on the Hocus Focus project.  These were engaged, excited, and animated as they learned each of the tricks AND performed them for the rest of the class!  Later that day, we wrapped up with a magic class at the Schauer Center for 20 registered kids.

Friday was the performance.  Cindy still isn’t feeling well so she stayed at the hotel while the rest of us drove over to the Schauer Center to begin setting up.  These guys have had a lot of snow!

Randy and the crew were there to meet us.  We first toured the theatre, found the dressing rooms, checked out the backstage space, and talked about the strategy for setting up the show.  When it came time to start load in, the padlock on the trailer door was frozen – completely frozen!  But these Wisconsin-ers know how to deal with little things like this.  A few minutes later, success!  And load in began…

The day moved along really well.  Randy and his guys are great, well organized, fun to work with, and terrific problem-solvers.  We didn’t hit any snags that he couldn’t fix.  Cindy arrived at the venue around 4pm, did her checks on a few things, and we started into tweaking the cues for the show.

Doors opened at 7:00pm and the audience was eager to find their seats.  I could tell they were going to be a good crowd.  And they didn’t let me down.  We had some fun volunteers on the stage with us and the responses to each of the illusions was very strong.  Afterwards, in the lobby, it seemed that WALKING THROUGH A WALL was the favorite with the group, followed closely by WINDSHEAR and the CUB ZAG.

There were a few local magicians in the crowd as well.  It’s always great when we have the support of other professionals in the field.  And we got to catch up with long-time friends, the Bugenhagens!!  I wish we had had more time to talk with them. It has been way too long but I’m thankful for the time we did have.

Today, we’re off to Terre Haute, IN for our next show on Valentine’s Day.  I’m going to attempt to finish the first draft of my research paper for Norway’s Society for Teacher Education Conference….

GREENEVILLE, TN & CARTERSVILLE, GA

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

After a few days at home – literally 2 1/2 days – we were back on the road again.  This leg of the tour is 6 weeks on the road covering lots of the U.S.

Our first two stops were in the South – Greeneville, TN and Cartersville, GA.  The weather was still very cold in both places but at least it wasn’t snowing!

GREENEVILLE, TN – NISWONGER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

This is a beautiful theatre.  We played the sister venue in Ohio a couple of years ago (the benefactor was the same man). Both are located in small, rural areas.  I love the fact that the Niswonger family was interested and willing to build venues in places that might never have the opportunity to experience the arts.

We arrived at the loading dock of of the NPAC to find the crew waiting for us.  It was cold and there was a chance for rain in the early afternoon.  I wanted to get loaded in as quickly as possible to avoid getting caught in that rain.  Cindy has been suffering from the flu so she stayed at the hotel to get some much needed rest.  Alan handled the load in and did a great job.

The technical director, Sarah Jane, was well prepared for us.  The day moved along easily and the show went up in record time.  Cindy arrived at the venue around 4pm to do the things that only she can do.  We had dinner and the doors opened at 7pm for the 7:30pm show.

It was a great crowd!  The audience was fantastic – great responses and reactions to the magic on stage!  It was the perfect experience all around for us at NPAC.  I’m already looking forward to coming back here!

THE GRAND THEATRE – CARTERSVILLE, GA

After the Greeneville show, we needed to get down the road a couple of hours.  We finished up the trip into Cartersville the following morning, checked into a hotel and dropped Cindy off to get some rest (and to get better).  The rest of us drove on over to the historic Grand Theatre.

The stage space was smaller than NPAC and Alan did an amazing job of getting everything to fit!  He managed to fill every corner of the stage and still leave room to do a show!  Ben, the technical director, was well prepared for us and extremely flexible when working with us.

Cindy arrived on stage around 4pm, made a few minor adjustments, and set up her remaining items.  Doors opened at 6:30pm for the 7pm show.  The audience rolled in to get their seats with audible enthusiasm!  And that excitement continued through the entire performance – GREAT audience!

Now, we are making our way to Hartford, Wisconsin…it’s going to be COLD!

SELMA, AL

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

After 3 days in Birmingham, we made our way south to Selma, AL.  This was our first time working here.  There has been a sense of excitement about the show since September when the first newspaper article ran.  And then, a couple of weeks before the show, the Selma News Journal ran another article:  ANOTHER SELMA FIRST: MAGIC SHOW COMES TO TOWN.

We arrived and found an eager and willing group of volunteers ready to help us load in the show.  The day moved along quickly as all of us had our jobs to do.  Keith and I spent a little extra time working on the theatre lighting system and, in the end, it was time well spent.

The audience was fantastic – enthusiastic and ready to participate.  The response to each magical effect was awesome and the audience encouraged us on the stage.  In the end, they gave us a standing ovation…and we made the front page of the newspaper the following day.

We received the nicest email from Randy Smith, the manager of  the Selma Concert Association:

“I wish to congratulate you on a job well done!  The show was a big hit with so many people Saturday night.  I am still getting great comments from people all around town.  The professionalism that your performance displayed was totally amazing.  The work that ALL of you put into it would exhaust normal people but you just took it in stride.  I still can’t believe how you transformed the stage of our old auditorium into a professional showplace!  The people who were there Saturday night were the REAL winners.  They were treated to a performance that they will remember for a long time!  Our door will always be open if you ever want to come again…thank you for WANTING to come to Selma, AL!”

It was a great night for all of us!