VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – IASE

July 23rd, 2013

It has been a very busy summer so far.  I was home for only a couple of days after my trip to Tobago before making another trip to Vancouver, B.C.  This time, I was attending the International Association of Special Education biennial conference.  This was a gathering of special educators from38 countries around the world.

IASE-OPENING

I had the privilege of presenting some research on the benefits of learning magic tricks for individuals with autism.  And I was able to show a quick video clip of the documentary I’ve been working on, MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT. You can watch it below.

MATD-video-image

The conference was a fun time to connect with some old friends and to form some new relationships.  As a result, I have some very exciting projects in the works…but more on those later. There’s a lot to write about but I need to organize my thoughts first.

I know this is quick entry but I’m sorting through some photos from Magic Camp in Ohio from last week.  I’ll be sharing these with you soon!  In a couple of days, I’m off to Atlanta to speak at the Southeast  Homeschool Conference on how to engage students in learning through the arts.

FROM TOBAGO TO VIRGINIA

June 22nd, 2013

Castara-BeachHR

It was an amazing week in Tobago.  I’m finally home after a very long day of airports.  I was up at 4am to meet the taxi to the airport.  My flight schedule:  Tobago to Trinidad to Miami to Charlotte to Lynchburg.  There were a few delays along the way but I finally made it home around 11:45pm – almost 20 hours after waking up.

Tobago was an experience I won’t soon forget.  I was privileged to be the Keynote speaker for the Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES) Round Table.  I was able to share with those in attendance the concept and research behind the use of magic tricks in helping children with learning challenges improve skills they find challenging.  The project is called Hocus Focus.  Others shared their research as well in small group discussions.  And the topics covered a range of subjects – from special education in the Caribbean islands to service learning programs in Utah.  I learned so much in those few days in Tobago; but I also made some life-long friends who share a common interest in improving the lives of children with special needs.

I’ve put together an album of photos on my Flickr – check them out!

 

 

TOBAGO DAY THREE

June 16th, 2013

I woke up this morning to beautiful weather in Tobago.  The last couple of days have been unusually rainy – but today, the sun is out and it is warming up!  This is the view from Paradise Point Villa – the name of Alice and Danny’s beautiful home).

Paradise-Point-Villa-View

After coffee, we made our way back down the hill to the village of Castara to have breakfast at Cheno’s.  This is such a quaint village and once you arrive, you find that the people are kind and generous.

Entering-Castara

First we needed to make a stop at the big clay oven where the ladies were going to be baking bread today.  We wanted to place an order because the menu was intriguing.  Kristen, Alice, Susan, and I walked through the gate as they were beginning to fire up the oven, placed and paid for our order:  coconut tarts, coconut drops, coconut roll, raisin rolls, pone,  and pumpkin bread.  She was a sweat lady hiding behind a very serious facade…but I finally coaxed her into letting me get a picture.

Bread-Lady

We walked back up to Cheno’s for breakfast – which was delicious – and then walked around Castara for a few minutes.  I picked up a couple of souvenirs for Cindy and then we drove back up to Paradise Point Villa to pack our bags.  Today, we would be moving to the Magdalena in preparation for the DISES round table that officially starts today.  But I had to take one last picture of the Castara beach…

Castara-beach

 

Before driving back up the mountain, we all wanted to check our the beach.  The fishing boats were coming in with the catch of the morning.  They cleaned and prepared the fish right there on the beach.  Of course, Susan and Kristen jumped right in to help them out.  I’ve got video of that “cleaning process” that I’ll post soon.  But check out these fish!!

Castara-Fisherman

We packed our suitcases and then relaxed for a bit at Paradise Point Villa.  We had to kill a couple of hours while our bread was being baked in Castara.  Finally the time came to make our departure.  Mark and Danny drove the suitcases to Magdalena while the rest of us returned to Castara to pick up the bread…which wasn’t quite ready yet.  We still needed to fill time for another hour.  Fortunately, that’s not too difficult to do in a place like this.  We picked up a soda and sat down but I was too enticed by the ocean so I took a walk up the shore.  Here are a few pictures.

Castara-beach2

Life on the beach

Castara-village

 

As I walked up the beach, I was able to see these little crabs running along the sand.  When I came up to the rocks, there were hundreds of them – and they weren’t so little anymore.  See if you can find the crabs on this rock.  They are definitely there and they are NOT small – just nicely camouflaged!

Crabs on the rocks

 

I needed just one more picture before picking up the bread – and here it is:

Welcome-to-Paradise-Tobago-Day3

 

The bread was finally ready for us to pick up – and we had a LOT of bread!  As we walked up to the oven, you could smell just how amazing it was going to taste.  We carried several brown paper bags of bread to the car in anticipation of sample each one.  It was time to leave Castara and make the one hour drive to the other side of the island and to the Magdalena. But the journey was anything but boring.  Along the way, we saw a HUGE lizard cross the road; stopped to help a sheep that had tangled himself around a post; discovered a new fruit that was amazing; and saw two caiman gators as we entered the Magdalena.

Tonight was also the official opening of the DISES Round Table.  We’ve just wrapped up our first gathering over dinner…and the day starts early in the morning.  So, good night.  I’ll write again when I can.

 

TOBAGO DAY ONE & TWO

June 14th, 2013

I arrived in Tobago last night after a long day of flying. I was up at 4am, at the airport by 4:45am, and on my first flight at 5:30am. With connections in Charlotte, Miami, and Trinidad, I finally arrived in Tobago around 10pm.  Several of us are staying with Alice, I arrived in Tobago last night after a long day of flying.  Several of us are staying with Alice, one of the leaders of DISES.  We arrived at her house close to midnight.  I dropped my luggage in my room and was fast asleep.  This morning, as I stepped out onto my veranda-style balcony, I was able to see the view of the island for the first time.  It was breath-taking!

View from the room

The following morning, after everyone was awake, we made our way down the hill to Cheeno’s for breakfast.  This is a small, quaint restaurant in the village of Castara.  The breakfast menu is extensive – bacon and eggs or bacon, eggs and toast.  The food was excellent and the service was charming.  These small villages have a way of making you feel at home even when you’ve never been there before.  They did make one request of us…don’t feed the chickens.

Chicken Sign

After breakfast, we explored the village.  There is this amazing area close to the beach where a group of woman bake bread they sell on Saturday.  All kinds of bread but I was especially intrigued by the coconut rolls and tarts.  We’ll be heading back on Saturday to buy some for sure!  But check out the oven.

Ladies baking bread

Bread Oven

 

After a late breakfast, we drove back up the mountain to Alice’s house.  It didn’t see as though the rain was going to stop anytime soon Susan, Kristen and I decided to make the best of it and explore the rainforest behind the house.  The trail leads down the hill to a river and waterfall that dump directly into the bay.  By the time we made it to the river, we were drenched.  Taking the plunge into the waterfall was a no-brainer…and the water was so nice!

Waterfall

The challenge of hiking down the hill is that you also have to hike back up!  What we thought might be really difficult wasn’t actually too bad.  We were soaked from head to toe…and ready for a hot shower!

After Hike Drenched

 

We chilled out for a bit in the afternoon, took our showers, and then all of us drove make down the mountain for dinner at Marguerite’s.  Rhonda was our hostess and the menu options included stewed fish, stewed chicken, and stewed goat – all service with vegetables, salad, beans and rice.  I went with the stewed goat – and it was amazing.

Goat for dinner

 

After dinner, we walked over to Marvin’s – one of the local gathering places in the village.  It was a great time to enjoy each other’s company and relax.  After great food and company, we drove back up to the hill and talked well into the morning…bedtime came around 2:45am!

IT’S BEEN A WHILE…

June 9th, 2013

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written here.  I apologize.  The last two months of the tour were “challenging” to say the least.  The shows were great but the “travel experience” was frustrating at times.  I think we experience more snow and ice in April and May than we did during the winter months!

Our last performance of the season was just a few days ago in Englewood, NJ at the Bergen Performing Arts Center.  This is one of our favorite places.  The local crew is awesome and the audience never disappoint us!

It’s good to be home and to be off the road for a while.  Well, I say “a while” but I mean a few days.  On Wednesday, I leave for Tobago to speak at the Division of International Special Education and Services Round Table (DISES).  I’m excited about this opportunity to share the Hocus Focus project with educators from around the world.  And the organizers have made arrangements for the teachers from Trinidad and Tobago to attend the presentation.

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I’ll be enjoying the next couple of days at home.  I’ll definitely be posting from Tobago!

OMAHA, NE

May 16th, 2013

Over the past few days, we had the privilege of working in the Omaha community and performing at the spectacular Orpheum Theatre.  After a more leisurely trip from Miami back to Omaha, we arrived with plenty of time to get a little rest.  We checked into the Deco XV Hotel in downtown Omaha, right across the street from the theatre.

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 6.59.57 PM

Thursday started early and continued throughout the day.  The first stop was Quality Life, a rehabilitation facility for individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries.  What an incredible place this is.  It was a privilege to spend some time with the residents here, visit with some of the therapists, and share a little magic.

QLI

The second stop was the ARC of Omaha at the Ollie Webb Center.  There’s something very special about spending time in a place like this.  People with developmental disabilities are not all that different from you and I.  We had a great time sharing magic with the clients here – both performing and teaching them a few tricks.

After lunch, we were on our way to Immanuel Rehabilitation Center.  Here, I was able to do a 2-hour workshop for rehabilitation therapists teaching them how to use simple magic tricks as a part of their treatment program.

Immanuel-building

The final stop of the day was at Omaha Children’s Hospital for a pizza party with the kids and a little magic show!  Often, the children with low immunity systems are unable to attend our public performances because they are so vulnerable.  This was an opportunity to bring the magic to them and their siblings.  After the performance, we took some additional time to teach all of them how to perform a few tricks of their own.  It was great to hear them laugh, watch them play, and see them have a new experience.

Childrens-logo

Friday was the day of the show at the Orpheum Theatre.  I had been looking forward to this performance for several weeks.

Orpheum-Marquee

This is a SPECTACULAR venue building in the 1920′s and restored and renovated to accommodate large Broadway shows.  When they did the restoration, they kept the character and style of the building completely in tact.

Orpheum-Inside

We backed the truck into the loading dock.  The crew was there to meet us – and we were on our way to getting the show fully set and ready!

Truck-at-dock-Orpheum

BackDrop-Orpheum

 

We had a great audience for the evening show – people of all ages.  And the response was fantastic!  Thank you Omaha for being an amazing crowd!  I’m looking forward to coming back!!

MIAMI, FL

May 9th, 2013

After a very busy time in the Dakotas and Nebraska, we made a long drive directly to Miami, Florida.  Once again we were challenged by some “repairs” that were required on our truck.  We originally had four days to make this trip but, after waiting on repairs, we had to make the drive in just 36 hours (more than 1700 miles).  We arrived in Miami safely but a little tired.

After spending a month in the snow, it was great to be in the Florida sunshine!  We would spend four days in Miami doing workshops for the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center.  They host a unique festival called the All Kids Included Family Festival for people of all abilities.  For two days, I worked and performed for children with a variety of challenges including sensory integration disorders and autism.  All of us had a great time!

On Saturday morning, the “big festival” was underway – concerts, shows, food, and the giant slide!  I couldn’t resist!  Check this out!

Tiger-slide

Kevin on Slide

On Saturday, we had two performances – one at 1pm and the other at 3pm.  Audiences were great – just a fantastic celebration for the entire family.

Here are a few more pictures from the Florida trip.  Today, we arrived in Omaha, NE where we will spend the next few days.

Truck at SMDCAC dock

Inside SMDCAC

Sky at SMDCAC

Kevin-glowing-lr

Chase on Truck Wash

 

SIOUX FALLS, SD

April 28th, 2013

THE WASHINGTON PAVILION – SIOUX FALLS, SD: 

This was the first time I’ve been to the Washington Pavilion and I had a great time working with Regina and Michele.  During our five days together, I conducted a workshop for occupational therapists; visited 7 schools; worked with clients at Sanford Children’s Hospital; did an in-service program for therapists at Avera Health; worked with clients at the Veteran’s Hospital; made the rounds at Avera Hospital; and brought the show to the stage of the Washington Pavilion.  In total, we were able to directly impact the lives of more than 300 individuals.  More importantly, we were able to lay the foundation for continuing this work long after my truck left the loading dock.

24-Argus Video Story

A reporter from the Argus Leader attended the workshop for therapists.  She did a bit of video to demonstrate one of the tricks and wrote this story.

25-KSFY-anchors

In advance of the show, I made several area media appearances including four radio stations (from rock to country) and an interview on the KSFY Morning News.  The interview on KSFY went very well but the highlight for me was something that I always ask to do but rarely get the opportunity.  Shawn Cable actually let me do the weather forecast and then tweeted about it!  You can check out the video HERE.

26-Magical Weatherman

27-TWEET-KSFY

You may remember reading last week we had a little trouble with the truck.  I had to replace a fuel injector while we were in Lincoln.  It all worked out and things seemed to be running great…until we left Omaha for Miami.  Suddenly, that familiar black smoke started pouring out of the exhaust and we heard that knocking noise.  Eli immediately pulled it over.

Truck-Towed-Omaha

We called a tow truck and, yes, here we are again – held up in a hotel room waiting for them to repair the truck on Monday.  After that, Chase and I have a mad dash driving experience to get us to Miami before Tuesday night.

Here are a few pictures from the week in Sioux Falls:

28-Snow-truckSFSD

29-Sanford-Chidrens-SFSD

30-Kevin Autism Girl

31-Kevin-KSFY Studio

32-Avera-ShowGroup-SFSD

LIED CENTER – LINCOLN, NE

April 24th, 2013

From Grand Forks, ND, we made our way south to Lincoln, NE…but not without incident.  We made it through the snow storm in South Dakota but, as we pulled through Sioux Falls, a loud banging noise could be heard coming from our engine.  We immediately pulled off the interstate and shut it down.  Black smoke was pouring out of the exhaust – not a pretty sight!

We called a tow truck who pulled us into the local International Dealership where we left it on the lot and got a hotel room for the night.  We also picked up a rental car so we could continue the trip to Lincoln the following morning.  But that also meant we would be leaving the truck in Sioux Falls to get repaired.  That’s something that always concerns me…

We arrived in Lincoln for a week of great activities prior to the final performance at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

LiedCenter-building

It was an awesome schedule where Nancy worked to make plans for me to work in many of the Lincoln Public Schools with some amazing kids.  I also had the chance to work with several Family Service groups after school.  I also had the privilege of speaking to the 70 education students and faculty in the College of Education at the University of Nebraska.  While I was a little nervous about this one, it was so much fun – and, I hope, these future teachers could envision some creative ways to teach their students.

After an amazing week, here’s the video summary!

LINCOLN-Video

On Tuesday, Chase and Keith drove back up to Sioux City to pick up the truck – hooray!  While I was having a great time working in the schools, they were bringing the show to Lincoln…just in time.  As it turns out, we blew out a fuel injector.  Loud noise and a couple thousand dollars to fix it but, at least we are back on the road again.

In the meantime, the local paper did a great article on the upcoming show at the Lied Center.  You can check it out here.

6-Kevin-Reaching-LR

We had an AMAZING AUDIENCE for the performance on Friday night.  The audience was perfect – energetic, excited, enthusiastic, and ready to volunteer!  There’s no way a performer could ask for anything more.  Check out this theatre – and almost every seat was filled!

Lied-seating

In the end, the week in Lincoln was incredibly special.  Thank you Bill, Anne, and Nancy and the wonderful people of Lincoln for making our week so phenomenal!!

 

GRAND FORKS, ND

April 15th, 2013

After wrapping up an amazing few days in Aberdeen, SD and waiting out the snow storm that hit afterwards, we were on our way to Grand Forks, ND to perform at the Chester Fritz Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Dakota.  We arrived safely, got checked into our hotel, and got some rest before show day.

Saturday morning, we pulled into the loading dock of the Chester Fritz.  The crew was waiting and ready to start the day….which went very well!  We loaded in, set up, teched the show, and were ready for dinner by 5pm – outstanding crew!

Loading-dock

Cases made it from the truck to the stage….

Cases-stage

Seating

Scenery, lights, sound, and illusions get put into place….

Drops-Lights

We tweaked the lighting cues, focused the intelligent lighting, and moved quickly through the remaining things that needed to be done.

Sky-cube

Grid

 

Doors opened at 7pm and the audience streamed into the theatre.  I could tell they were going to be a fun crowd as there was already a sense of excitement in the air!  Unfortunately, Cindy was still very ill for this show so it was “just the guys” performing on the stage.  Chase and Eli did a great job of picking up the slack and making the show run smoothly…and the audience rolled with us!

THANK YOU Grand Forks for being such a great audience!

After the show, we were told that another Winter Storm Watch was now in effect and the region would be expecting between 8 – 18 inches of snow!  We needed to be able to start heading south as quickly as possible but the snow was supposed to arrive in Grand Forks starting around 4am.

Thankfully, the storm slowed a bit.  When we woke up, the storm was now predicted to hit Grand Forks at 1pm – several hours later than expected.  This brief reprieve gave us a few more hours to get out of town.  We drove for a couple of hours in clear skies on great roads…and then, it all started to change.

Icy-road

We had to pull of the road around Watertown, SD to give the storm some time to travel north.  It was brutal – wind, snow, white out conditions, blizzards, cold, freezing rain, ice….all made for treacherous roads.

Truck in Ditch

 

Tonight, we are in Sioux Falls, SD just a few hours from our next stop – LINCOLN, NE!