Archive for October, 2011

FREAK SNOW STORM!

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

After the show in Greensburg, we spent the night in town but wanted to be on the road early the next morning.  There was a very early major snow storm moving into the North and New England and I wanted to try and beat the storm.  It wasn’t supposed to move in until after 3pm so I had plenty of time.

We hit the road early – like 6:45am.  We should have arrived in Connecticut around 2pm, no later than 3pm.  But, as it turns out, the storm came in early.  We woke up to snow on the ground in Greensburg.  Once we started driving, that 7 hour trip turned into an almost 12 hour “adventure.”  It never stopped snowing – not one time!  And it was heavy, wet snow for much of the trip.  We had to stop to “shovel” it off the truck and the radiator.

Driving through New Jersey was especially exciting!  All along I-287, the snow was falling fast and furious.  The trees were so weighted down with the wet snow that the literally starting snapping in half and dropping onto the interstate.  There were many times that trees blocked one or more of the driving lanes – that and all that snow!  As it made our way through the final part of NJ, they ended up closing I-287 in several locations because of fallen trees.  The closer we got to New York, traffic came to a stand still…for a long time.  Still not sure what was going on but it was a good opportunity for Alan and Chase to jump out and knock off all the snow.  Click the image to watch the video!

We did finally make it to Connecticut – almost 12 hours after we left Pennsylvania.  There’s still one more storm that is supposed to come through the area tonight dropping more snow and high winds.  Oh boy, here we go!

THE PALACE THEATRE – GREENSBURG, PA

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

We spent two days in Greensburg working with Teresa Baughman at the Palace Theatre.  The first day started early but was worth every minute.  I had the chance to work at Clelian Heights School – a very special place for some very special learners.  Most of the students here have been diagnosed with a developmental disability, i.e. downs syndrome, autism, intellectual disability, etc.  The Sisters and teachers are dedicated to the education and spiritual well-being of these children.  It was an honor to spend time with them.  First, I did a small magic show for about 60 of the kids and then we broke out into smaller groups to learn a few tricks.  Eventually several of the students came up to the front of the room and performed for their classmates.  It was beautiful to watch these kids do a trick, take a bow, hear the applause, and clap their hands in total happiness!

On Friday night, we performed on the stage of the Palace Theatre.  We arrived that morning to see the crew waiting for us outside the loading dock door.  They helped me get the truck into place and the guys took over.

Chase coordinated the unloading of the trailer while Alan placed the cases on stage.  Keith started working on the technical aspects of the show while Cindy started in with all the details she handles.  We really do have a great team – and everyone works together so well.

The audience was very responsive – from the first illusion to the finale.  We even tried out a couple of new illusions on them.  We’re going to be taking these effects with us to Europe in November/December so we’re trying to get as much “live audience” rehearsal as possible.  We had great volunteers and I was very pleased with the way the show looked – beautiful on the stage of the Palace!

Thank you Greensburg for being so supportive and enthusiastic.  We had a great time!

COMMUNITY ARTS CENTER – WILLIAMSPORT, PA

Monday, October 24th, 2011

This was our first experience working with Rob and Jeri at the Community Arts Center…and I’m hoping it’s not going to be the last! The venue is spectacular – a beautifully restored 1928 vaudeville theatre.

We were able to spend a couple of days here.  They had worked hard to arrange for some outreach activities.  The project started working with a group of approximately 160 special learners from across the school district.  They came to the Community Arts Center for a small magic performance that included their participation.  Then they learned a few tricks of their own.  Several of them made their way to the stage, performed for their classmates, and experienced the cheers and applause of a job-well-done.  There is no way to put into words the “magic” that happens when these kids perform!

In the afternoon, several teachers from around the district took time after school to attend a workshop on the Hocus Focus project.  This is an experiential workshop that demonstrates how to integrate magic into classroom instruction AND align these activities to National and Common Core State Standards of Learning.

The next morning, Jeri had arranged for a visit to the Children’s Development Center.  This organization is committed to helping families understand how to encourage their child with behavioral and psychological needs.  I had the privilege of working with the therapy staff, teaching them how to integrate magic tricks into their sessions with the remarkable kids.  However, the real fun started when I got to work with the kids!  Elizabeth Dixon is the OT Department Supervisor and coordinated the workshop and time with the kids.  She gave me permission to share these thoughts:

Kevin Spencer visited the Children’s Development Center on October21st, 2011. He spent over an hour teaching our staff of occupational and physical therapists about different magic techniques that can be incorporated into therapy.  With this, he explained various uses for the tricks in all types of populations (physically disabled/ Autism/ various syndromes).  Kevin was able to relate his tricks to occupational performance and key areas that are addressed in therapy (visual motor/ coordination/strength/ motor planning, etc.).  He then worked with several of our clients.  He and his staff were engaging and able to transition his tricks to the children well.  One parent commented to me that she has not seen her son this focused in a long time (child is diagnosed with Autism).  Kevin was a knowledgeable communicator to this staff and to our clients.  We are very grateful for his visit.

The final residency event was held at Susquehanna Health as a “brown bag” in-service presentation during lunch.  Almost 50 therapists brought their lunch into the therapy gym and participated in the workshop.  After lunch, I was able to work with several of the clients – brave and courageous people with a lot of hard work ahead of them.

We topped off the two days with a final performance in the beautiful Community Arts Center.  It’s always a blast to perform for a large, enthusiastic audience ready to have a good time – and these guys were ready to have a great time!

Thank you Williamsport for a memorable experience in your community.  We do hope we get to come back sometime soon!

TRAVELING HOME

We left Williamsport to head to our home in Virginia.  This would be our last chance to spend any significant time there before leaving on a 7 week tour (including 4 weeks in Europe).  You might remember that last weekend we had one of our new tires blow out on us.  Well, the same thing happened again.  As we were driving home, I heard an explosion under the truck as the other rear tire lost its tread.  Thankfully, Cindy was able to find a mobile service to come and get us back on the road.  We made it home around 11:30pm – still, there’s no place like home.

AMERICAN THEATRE – HAMPTON, VA

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

After being cancelled in August because of Hurricane Irene, we were finally able to bring the show back to the stage of the American Theatre in Hampton, VA  This is a fantastic, intimate theatre where there’s not a bad seat in the house.  I’m guessing this is the 6th or 7th time we’ve been on the stage here.  Working with Michael and his staff is very much like working with family.  Three wonderful audiences and the debut of a couple of new illusions – great fun!  And I got to see some of the students from summer magic camp!

ATHENS, TN

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

We made our way from Western Tennessee to the Eastern side of the state – Athens.  We spent two days here working with Ellen Kimball and Pat Thompson.  On Tuesday night, we performed at the local auditorium for what can only be descried as the most responsive audience we’ve had all season.  Wow – these guys were amazing!

The next day started around 8:30am with a Professional Development Workshop for approximately 40 teachers from all over the district.  This was an opportunity to share with the concepts of arts integration in the classroom.  Educators are taught how to create activities that are fun, exciting, educational, and align with National and Common Core State Standards of Learning.

After the workshop, Alan and I worked in 5 different classrooms in various schools to demonstrate the effectiveness of the HOCUS FOCUS project. Teachers are always surprised by the responsiveness of the students.  Not just their willingness to learn the magic tricks, but how effective it is in teaching important abstract concepts like problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and observational techniques.

Our experience in Athens, TN was outstanding – great staff, great audience, great teachers, great students!  THANK YOU ATHENS!

After wrapping up in Athens, we decided to go home for a few hours.  We were so close it was too hard to pass up a chance to sleep in our own bed for a night!  I drove those first few hours and then Alan took over.  While I was laying down on the sofa in the back, there was an incredibly loud “boom” that launched me from my sleep!  Turns out we blew out a back tire – explosive enough that it also took out the brake, signal, and reverse lights on the back of the truck!  We were only a few miles from a Flying J with a shop so we decided to stop and get it all fixed.  Wow, what a mess! It only put us behind about 90 minutes…and we were all still alive!

DIXIE CARTER PAC – HUNTINGDON, TN

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

After spending a couple of days visiting with my parents in Bryant, AR, we drove to Huntingdon, TN.  We performed in the Hal Holbrook Theatre in the Dixie Carter Performing Arts & Enrichment Center.  This is a beautiful theatre, intimate seating, and a great staff and crew.  We performed here in 2007 when the theatre opened.  We pulled the truck to the side of the building and load in began.  Cases came off the trailer, into their freight elevator, and up to the stage level.  Team work make it easy and efficient!

The day moved along very well.  We actually finished setting up early and had about an hour to relax before doors opened.  This gave me some time to work on one of our new illusions.  I take every opportunity I can get to practice these things so we can get them into the show!

We had a great audience – fun and glad to be there.  They were lively and responsive – laughing, cheering, smiling, and gasping all at the right time. Some fun volunteers on the stage also made for an enjoyable evening for everyone!

Once the show was over, I went to the lobby to visit with audience members. By the time I wrapped up, much of the show had been packed and was being loaded back into the truck.  Wow, I’ve got a great team!

A big thank you to “the Dixie” staff and crew and to the people from Huntingdon who supported the show!

BATESVILLE, AR

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

We wrapped up in Mississippi and made the drive to Arkansas.  We performed as a part of the UACCB Spotlight Series in Batesville, AR.  This is a very new series and we were the opening event of the season.  The executive director, Brian, saw us perform when he was a senior at Arkansas Tech in Russellville many years ago.  It was great to see him again and to work with him in this new adventure.

We rolled into the parking lot just outside the auditorium.  There’s no real “loading dock” into the space but everyone was more than accommodating in making an easy path from trailer to stage.  A nice crew of guys and things starting moving in!

Once load in was complete, we started our day.  Keith and I had some work to do in getting the lights the way we wanted them and getting the intelligent lighting into place.  Backstage was a little tight but Alan, Chase, and Cindy managed to get the illusions in and organized.  We used every little nook on that stage.  Once it all started to come together, I was pleased with the way it looked.  I also debuted a new illusion for the audience and it got a GREAT response!  It’s definitely a “keeper.”

When the doors opened at 6:30pm, the crowd started to roll in.  In less than 15 minutes, we were near capacity.  By show time, the auditorium was packed with an excited and enthusiastic audience.  They were an awesome crowd!   Their response to every illusion just fed the excitement even more and by the time we hit the finale, they proved themselves to be the best audience of the fall (so far).

Thank you Batesville for your support and enthusiasm!!

JACKSON, MS

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

After a fun afternoon at Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Chase and I went back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation.  Cindy and I spent a little time together and then I met up with Spencer, my nephew, for dinner.  We had a nice meal and great conversation.  Once back at the hotel, I managed to get a little work done before calling it a night.

The next day, we made our way over to the JA Performing Arts Center to begin setting up for the evening performance.  We backed into the loading dock and the crew guys got to work bringing in all that equipment.

The day moved along quite easily thanks to all the advance work Keith had done with Andy, the TD at the theatre.  We hit a snag with one of the backdrops but it wasn’t a big deal.  Once scenery was in the air, we moved on to the lighting…which also went quickly.

When the show was set, we were escorted to the cafeteria for dinner.  Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans (my favorite), bread rolls, and homemade pecan pie and bread pudding.  WOW!  It was delicious!!  And I hate way too much before the show…with no regrets.

The audience was fantastic for the performance.  We had some great volunteers help on stage for several of the illusions.  I had a chance to meet many of them after the show in the lobby.  Thank you Jackson for a great time!  And thanks to everyone at JA for making it a wonderful experience!