THE LINKING RING

May 14th, 2014

Cindy and I are honored to be featured in the current issue of THE LINKING RING, the oldest magic publication in the world.  During its ninety years, The Linking Ring has had fourteen editors and evolved from a four-page mimeographed publication to a professionally printed and internationally distributed journal. It has documented the most significant events in our art over the past nine decades, traced the rise to fame of the “greats” in magic, and enabled magicians all over the world to exchange ideas. Through the years, The Linking Ring has had its detractors, and yet – to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill – “Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end – there it is.”

For more information on the International Brotherhood of Magicians, check out their website:  www.magician.org.

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-1

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-2

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-3

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-4

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-5

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-6

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-7

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-8

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-9

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-10

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-11

 

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-12

TLR_may_CVR_cvrstory_med-13

 

 

APRIL ON THE ROAD….

May 9th, 2014

1-Kevin-Lamb

Every few years, our tour takes us to the West.  And it seems like it’s always in April.  This was our year and we started the month in Gillette, WY working at Cam-Plex.  After an incredible week in Gillette, we continued further west toward Utah, California and Washington.  Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Kaycee, WY to fuel up the rig.  That’s where I met the little guy pictured here. This little lamb was only a day old and when I asked if I could take a picture, the rancher suddenly dropped him in my arms and Cindy clicked the photo!  He was much lighter (and softer) than I had imagined…and, new life reminded me that spring was just around the corner!

2-Camplex Loading Dock

GILLETTE, WY:  This was my first experience working in this incredibly visionary complex in Gillette, WY.  This was an extended residency that included working with the school district and culminating in a final sold out performance at the Heritage Center Theatre to a wildly enthusiastic audience.

“We recently had the pleasure of hosting Kevin Spencer and his crew in our community for a week-long residency.  He conducted a teacher workshop and several workshops with Autism/ASD students over the course of the week.  It’s rare to find a teaching artist who is willing to work with this student population.  It’s even more rare to find a teaching artist who not only excels at working with them, but also loves doing so.  Kevin has a heart for working with these kids that so many others are afraid to do.  He is a warm and caring individual who sees these kids as they are – students who want to be treated like their peers.  He draws them out with his disarming smile and his talent to see past their disabilities and focus on their abilities.  Everyone who was involved in the residency week raved about the experience.  It was no surprise that we ended the week with a sold out public show!  We will definitely be inviting Kevin back to our community in the near future.”

3-HF-Gilette

The Education coordinator worked brilliantly putting together a very thorough residency with the autism & special education programs in the school district.  The week started with Professional Development training for special educators on arts-integrated teaching methods that would engage all of their students, including those with a special education classification.  Over the next few days, I worked with multiple classes from 12 schools teaching students simple magic tricks.  The skills required to learn these tricks are complex on many levels including attention, motor planning, dexterity, organization, sequencing, non-verbal and verbal communication, and social skills. Evidence demonstrates that learning and performing magic tricks can enhance student self-efficacy, self-esteem, and the ability to persevere.  In a fun and motivating environment, students were able to improve the skills they find most challenging – academically, socially, and functionally.

4-HF-GILETTE-COLLAGE

Studies have demonstrated over and over again that arts-involved students get better grades, have higher rates of college enrollment, and are more likely to volunteer in their communities, vote and become involved in politics.  They are, in short, more optimistic about what is ahead of them and they are more likely to set and achieve goals.  Teaching magic tricks to students helps them develop and improve important 21st century skills often defined as the 4C’s — creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.  The Gillette News Record featured Hocus Focus on the front page in an article entitled “Making Pure Magic.”

5-Gillette News Record

PLEASANTON, CA:  After many years of attempting to make it happen, we were finally able to route through Northern California and set a date at the Firehouse Arts Center.

6-Firehouse-Art-Center

This is an awesome venue that’s not quite a proscenium stage but not a thrust stage either.  It’s a great space that’s intimate for both performer and audience.  Thanks to the flexibility of the technical crew and the “road experience” of my team, they were able to pull together a show that worked perfectly.  Teamwork paid off in a big way and the sold out audience had a great time.

 

7-GVCA

GRASS VALLEY, CA:  That’s me standing just outside the Stage Entrance to the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, CA.  This was our first time to work here.  This is truly a “cowboy town” located in the hills of Northern California – scenic, charming, and friendly.  We were almost sold out when we arrived and by show time, we were oversold with a packed audience!

“On behalf of all of us at the Center, I just wanted to pass on my thanks for a really great show on Saturday night. We’re all in agreement that everyone in your company was not only very professional but wonderful to work with (that doesn’t always happen, as you can well imagine from your time of being on the road!).”

8-Ellen-Eccles-Marque

LOGAN, UT:  I was privileged to perform on the stage of the Ellen Eccles Theatre in 2007 so I was more than excited to be returning with a new show AND the opportunity to do some meaningful work in the Logan community.  I worked with Jim several years earlier in Michigan and he had recently come on board as the Executive Director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts. The near-capacity crowd on Friday night made me feel like a rock star! The cheers, shouts, and exuberate applause for each illusion electrified the house. After the show, I had the chance to talk with a couple hundred “fans” in the lobby. In an email, Jim shared these comments:

“Kevin has a rare gift. He moves easily from filling the stage with boundless energy to engaging the audience one-on-one with warmth and generosity after the show.”

And we made the front page of the Herald Journal!

9-Logan Newspaper

In the days leading up to the show, I was able to make some awesome connections in 2 adult care facilities, speak to the Occupational Therapy club at Utah State University, and work with  7 schools throughout the Cache Valley providing me with the opportunity to do a little magic with some great people.  The FOX affiliate in Salt Lake City covered one of those outreach programs at a school and the local newspaper featured another event on the front page of the paper the following day.

“Kevin’s caring and engaging persistence helped these kids find the confidence they needed to overcome physical and emotional challenges and find the magic inside them selves. They had ten outreach activities in two days and about 80 miles of driving on unfamiliar roads.  Color me impressed.  I would say the Spencer’s Theatre of Illusion is a top notch group of professionals worthy of emulation.”

Here are some comments from a few of the teachers who participated in the Hocus Focus program in the days leading up to the show:

“Loved it! It was amazing. Kevin and his assistant were friendly and charismatic.  I loved how he integrating magic to help kids with fine motor skills and thinking skills.  I have a student with autism who was picking it up and loved it!  He was able to do things I didn’t know he could to do.  I’m so glad we did it.  They were able to quickly build good rapport, and my students were energized and entertained. Let’s just say I’d love to have him back!”  - Becky Winn, Birch Creek Elementary

“Kevin was great with the group. He remembered their names!! I thought it was both fun and informative for the kids. I wish he had had a little more time to make the connections with the kids about how they focused on the magic tricks and how they can benefit from that same kind of focus in their school work. I would highly recommend the program to anyone!”  - Tammy Roper, Thomas Edison North Campus

“I had all of my students at the Hocus Focus Workshop and they loved it! Kevin and Eli were very personable and great with the kids.  I loved that they first performed some tricks and then taught tricks the students could do themselves.  My students really enjoyed the workshop and we would be VERY interested in doing something like this every year if possible.  Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity!”   Mountainside Elementary School

“Fantastic! We absolutely loved him. The residents totally had a positive, interactive experience.  He was funny, kind, and loud enough for everyone to hear. One resident almost left right before he came because she said she was afraid of magic.  But she stayed and loved it!  Residents were using fingers, arms, and shoulders just by showing them tricks – great therapy! We’d love to have him back.” - Laura Wolford, Pioneer Valley Lodge

“The kids enjoyed being able to be in a small group and being able to participate. Those kids don’t usually get to do something like that. In most situations, they don’t like to volunteer because they’re afraid they might do something wrong; so, it was nice having them be able to participate. He tried to involve everyone, even the kids that weren’t sure they wanted to. The other thing I liked was that he had them tell a story with magic.  They were learning and not realizing it.  It was fun.”  - Jill Wanner, Lewiston Elementary

“It was great! The kids loved it and were very engaged. The kids got front page of the paper and they loved that. It was great helping them work on their motor skills. They had to practice it a few times, but they didn’t get frustrated because it was a fun thing. If they every come back, let us know!”   - Robin Patton, North Park Elementary

10-Pantages Marquee

TACOMA, WA:  This was my second performance at the spectacular Pantages Theatre in Tacoma.  This is a stunning venue – and the audience of almost 1,000 was fantastic!

11-Kid President -Tacoma

The difference this time was the amount of outreach they were able to incorporate.  The day before the show, I made a visit to Grant Center for the Expressive Arts.  This is a public school where subjects are taught through the framework of interactive arts programs – what a concept!  My point-of-contact for the day was Conrad, the “kid principal.”  That’s me and him in the picture above….

I spoke to students in 1st – 3rd grades and then spent time working with two groups of students in autism support classes.  After working at Grant, I spend the afternoon working at Custer Elementary School with two classes of special education students.

12-ECA Building

EDMONDS, WA:  This was my first time to work with the Edmonds Center, but I hope it’s not the last!  The venue is very intimate for its size giving every member of the audience a “front row seat” to the production.  The “oohs and aahs” from the near-capacity crowd was awesome and the dialogue between me and the audience made it feel like I was performing in my living room, not a 750 seat theatre!

13-ECA Healing of Magic Poster

I made a stop in Edmonds two days prior to the public performance to do a little community outreach. The ECA partnered with the Everett Clinic to sponsor a 3-hour continuing education workshop for occupational and physical therapists.  As is our practice, we conduct extensive evaluations of each workshop.  Here are a few of the comments from participants:

“This workshop was entertaining, well thought out, researched, and explained. This far exceeded my expectations.  One suggestion – make it longer…I can’t believe I actually said that!”

“The instructor was dynamic. Loved the opportunity to DO the tricks!”

“The instructor was very knowledgeable – dynamic and interesting.”

“After being a PT for 11 years and attending LOTS of continuing education classes, this is the only one that I feel I will remember, use, and tell other about for days…even years to come!  I can’t wait to go to work with kids tomorrow!”

“Best workshop I’ve attended!  Very practical activities we can use immediately in our practice.  Time flew and it was very interactive.  Fun, full of learning – not just magic, but therapeutic uses of tasks.”

And, finally, just a few pictures from the road….One More Stop On My Journey.

20-Kevin-Collage

 

 

 

MARCH ON THE ROAD….

May 8th, 2014

1-Kevin-Snakes

March was another COLD month on the road!  Honestly, I think you could have plotted our tour by watching the Weather Channel – wherever the bad winter weather was located, we seemed to be right in the middle of it!  In spite of frigid temperatures and sometimes blizzard-like conditions, we experienced wonderful audiences and remarkable residencies.  Working with theatres who believe in the power of the arts beyond what happens on their stages and in their buildings is one of the greatest privileges of my job.

In March, I had the honor of spending a week with The Lone Tree Arts Center in Colorado.  I wanted to share a small part of what the executive directors had to say: “We have just finished a week-long residency with Kevin. In that week of workshops in the community of people with special needs, we have made an enduring and important difference.  Kevin delivers lessons of empowerment, determination and joy, one person at a time. This is incredibly powerful, and by facilitating Kevin’s work here, the Lone Tree Arts Center has made a difference in our community that will be remembered, perhaps even more than some of the work we present on our stages.”

MARCH IN REVIEW

2-MSLBD-logo

I started the month of March participating in the Midwest Symposium on Leadership in Behavior Disorders (MSLBD) in Kansas City.  After my workshop presentation, one of the participants emailed this comment to my office:

“Kevin brought me some awesome ideas to work with my students! I did not know what to expect but he surpassed anything I had imagined! He was absolutely amazing!  Loved it – every minute of this 3-hour workshop I was on the edge of my seats waiting for the next shared thought and research.  Most impressive – he offered a wide range of interventions toward creating positive classroom and school environments to promote optimal learning.”

3-OPAS

I have been looking forward to working with Texas A&M University for more than a year!  In the fall, you may remember that I was invited to come to College Station so we could explore potential partners for our time together this month.  As a result, our time together was packed with meaningful activities that resulted in real transformational experiences for everyone who participated – including me.

“We were fortunate to have the Spencers here to perform their magic for our audiences.  However, the real magic happened when we took Kevin into our community for three days.  We still laugh and cry when we think and talk about the impact of those residency activities.  Thank you, Kevin Spencer, for bringing magic to our kids!”  - Executive Director, MSC OPAS

“What an amazing week we had during Kevin’s stay in Bryan/College Station. Seeing him work is wonderful…seeing him work with the kids is incredible! It was 4 straight days of magical moments as we saw the awe and pure joy on every child’s face as they learned to perform magic! They left having mastered something, not necessarily easy, that they could take and share with their friends and family with a sense of pride and accomplishment.”  - Director of Education/Outreach MSC OPAS

4-GLOBE

This was my first time to perform at the Amarillo Civic Center.  The Globe News Theatre is one of the most uniquely beautiful spaces in which we’ve ever performed.  And the crew is friendly and professional.  Top it all off with an audience that was enthusiastic and engaged and it made for the perfect weekend!

“You won’t regret booking the Spencers Theatre of Illusion. The cast and crew were a joy to work with and Kevin brings passion and skill to his work. Kevin immediately established a great rapport with the audience and they loved the show! We are looking forward to having them return in the future.”  -  CFE/General Manager, Amarillo Civic Center Complex

5-lone-tree-arts-center

This was my second visit time to work with the Lone Tree Arts Center.  This week was dedicated totally to outreach activities.  This is one of those places that “gets it,” one that understands completely the power of the arts to transform a community.  We partnered with Developmental Pathways.  Together, we reached out to individuals in the community who have developmental and intellectual disabilities.  We spent 5 days serving several hundred young adults, parents, therapists, and support staff with arts-integrated approaches designed to help improve the skills that some individuals find challenging – academically and functionally.  It was a phenomenal week – one that I look forward to doing again!

“For many presenters (myself included), a focus on the bottom line is a critical part of our business. Presenting work that is artistically excellent AND will sell lots of tickets is a winning combination, and our reputations grow when we can make both things happen. This is one way we can make an impact on our community. There’s another way, too, and one that we have found profoundly meaningful: by looking outside traditional ways of reaching audiences in our buildings and instead taking artists to the community in unexpected ways. We have just finished a week-long residency with Kevin and in that week of workshops in the community of people with special needs, we have made an enduring and important difference. Kevin’s work, based in science and research but cloaked in the art of magic, is an example of how one person can make a difference in the lives of many. By teaching children, adults, caregivers, and therapists the simplest of magic tricks, Kevin delivers lessons of empowerment, determination and joy, one person at a time. This is incredibly powerful, and by facilitating Kevin’s work here, the Lone Tree Arts Center has made a difference in our community that will be remembered, perhaps even more than some of the work we present on our stages.”  - Executive Director, Lone Tree Arts Center (CO)

6-LoneTree-BarbKomdat-FBpost

After being in Colorado, I made a quick flight home so I could get my hair cut…and meet up with Cindy and the rest of the crew.  While I was in Colorado, they drove on to Minnesota and flew home for a few days.  The weather was nice in Virginia – at least for a few days – but then the cold weather moved in.  A blizzard in Minnesota and an ice storm in North Carolina threatened our return to Minnesota for the show at the Ames Center.  Our flights were canceled TWICE but we finally got a confirmed flight out and arrived at our hotel at 1am the day of our show.

7-Ames-Center 

This was our second time to perform on the stage of the Ames Center. I really enjoy working with everyone here – great crew, terrific staff, and such a fantastic audience!

8-Ames-Center-FBpost 

From Burnsville, MN, we travel back to Eau Claire, WI for our next show.  We last performed at the State Theatre was in 2007.

9-State-Theatre

It was great to be back with a new show.  It was an enjoyable day working with the crew and performing for such a wonderful audience.

10-Paramount-Theatre

We were at the Paramount Theatre several years ago so it was great to be back!  This time, we partnered with a STEAM School in Austin for 3 days to work with 6th graders, teaching them lessons in fractions, motion, friction, force, energy transfer and a little Newtonian theory using the art of magic.  The week ended with a nearly sold out house of wildly enthusiastic families!  There was a great article in the Austin Daily Herald too!

11-Austin Daily Herald

 After wrapping up in Austin, MN, we started the drive WEST toward Wyoming…..

MORE THAN MAGIC….

April 6th, 2014

Gillette-NewsRecord 4-3-2014-blog

IT’S MARCH…

March 15th, 2014

I haven’t been writing in my blog nearly as much as I once did.  Much of that is because I’m connected to so many people through Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare that you know my day-t0-day activities without having to write them here.  But I know that some of you aren’t connected with me so, please, take a moment and do that:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kevinwspencer

Twitter: @kevinspencer72

The last few months have been incredibly busy.  In January and early February, we toured in Florida performing for wonderful audiences in beautiful places and warm temperatures.  In February, we moved the show to the Midwest where we toured Iowa – where we also performed for wonderful audiences in beautiful places and COLD temperatures!

After a nice run through Iowa, the team flew back to Virginia for a few days while I made a visit to Kansas State University to work with some of their drama therapy students.  Over several days, an amazing group of people gathered to prepare for an exciting research project happening this summer at the Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp.  We will be exploring the impact that learning/performing magic tricks can have on the executive function skills of children with Autism and ADHD.  This will be the first multidisciplinary, arts-integrated intervention model designed to document this type of program!

After a few days in Manhattan, KS, I drove back to Kansas City to present a 3-hour workshop at the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders.  This was a wonderful opportunity to share the Hocus Focus program with special educators across the U.S.  The workshop was overwhelmingly received with more than 40 schools signing up to participate in future research.

Once things wrapped in Kansas, I was on a plane to College Station, TX where I would meet up with the rest of the team.  We had a great show and spent several days working in the area:  3 television interviews, 1 newspaper interview, 1 radio interview, 8 workshops for 205 special education students in 7 schools, and 2 professional development workshops for 53 teachers and therapists.  It was a productive week!

We drove on to Amarillo for a performance at the Globe-News Theatre.  This is a truly spectacular theatre – one of the most unique I’ve ever seen.  The audience was amazing and we wrapped it all up with another standing ovation.

As I write this, I’ve been partnering with Lone Tree Performing Arts Center and Developmental Pathways in Colorado.  It’s been a busy week working with a variety of young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout the Metropolitan Denver area.  But it has been an amazing experience!  Tomorrow is the last of our events here and then I’ll be on a flight to Virginia on Sunday to spend 36 hours at my house…just in time for another snow storm.

FLORIDA….TO IOWA!

February 9th, 2014

Once again I’m beginning this post with an apology for not having written in a very long time.  If you are a FaceBook friend, the you see many of my updates on a daily basis.  So, please click over and join me there.

After NYC, we made our way to Florida – first stop, Jacksonville.  This is absolutely one of my favorite places to perform.  The theatre is spectacular, the audiences are great, the crew is phenomenal, and the staff is so much fun.

FloridaTheatre-STage

FloridaTheatre-TruckMarquee

The day before the show, we were up early to head over to the television station for a morning interview, then off to Alden Road Exceptional Center to work with some incredible kids…

WJXT

…and then we made a trip over to Wolfson Children’s Hospital to do a workshop for the therapists there – speech, occupational, and physical therapists.  This is always a great time but I love working with pediatric therapists!

Wolfson-Rehab

 

We had a great show at the Florida Theatre on Friday night – excited crowd, ready to have a good time.  But, then again, we are never disappointed in the Jacksonville audience!

From there, we drove on to Palm Coast for a performance on Saturday night at the Flagler Auditorium.  Again, this is one of my favorite places to perform!  The audience is always so appreciative and ready to have a good time…and Lisa is the best!

Flagler-PalmCoast

 

After Flagler, we had a few days to relax a bit before heading down to Fort Pierce to the beautiful Sunrise Theatre.  It’s been several years since we last performed here so it was great to be returning with our new production.  And the marque welcomed us!

Sunrise-Marquee

 

The day before the show, John had made arrangements for me to do a workshop with the rehab therapists at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.  There were about 40 for the workshop and, as is generally the case, there were some who were a bit hesitate about using magic tricks as a rehab tool. It didn’t take long for them to “get it” and see the connection between learning to perform a simple magic tricks and all the therapeutic potential for their clients.

Rehab-Ft.Pierce

 

The next day was the performance at the Sunrise Theatre.  Tickets had been selling well so it was going to be a nice crowd for the show.  Crew guys were awesome and the show went up quickly.  Before we knew it, it was time to take the stage!

SunriseTheatre-FtPierce

 

After Ft. Pierce, we were on our way to Leesburg – heading back to Central Florida.  The temperatures were so pleasant for January – in the mid 70′s.  You can’t argue with that…and the best part, THREE SOLD OUT SHOWS IN LEESBURG!

PaulPWilliamsFAC-Leesburg

 

It had been a very busy weekend with 5 shows in 3 days so we were all a little exhausted after the final matinee on Sunday.  After loading out, we crashed at the hotel.  The next morning, we were on our way back to South Florida for our final Florida performance in Jupiter.

Maltz-Jupiter

 

The audience at the Jupiter could not have been better.  They were playful, enthusiastic, and looking forward to an evening of magic and illusion. The intimacy of the space made for an incredible experience for me as a performance – and then as an audience.  Another sold out performance for us at the Jupiter Theatre was a fantastic way to wrap up the Florida tour!  Unfortunately, we would also be saying farewell to the warm temperatures.  Iowa, here we come!

On another note, I was interviewed by Scott Wells for his podcast, THE MAGIC WORD.  If you’re interested, you can check out the interview.

The Magic Word Pocast

 

STARTING IN NYC BUT HEADING TO FLORIDA!

January 14th, 2014

There no other city in the world like New York City – and that’s where my 2014 began.  Thankfully, the deep-freeze that had enveloped the East Coast had gone away and NYC was unseasonably warm (making for a much lighter suitcase).  I had some great meetings over my 5 days in the city…and ate too much food!

photo 3

As I write this, I’m sitting in LaGuardia International Airport waiting for my flight to Washington, DC continuing on to Jacksonville, FL.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll be appearing on the WJXT MORNING SHOW to talk about the work I’ll be doing in the Jacksonville community prior to our show on Friday night.

WJXT

After the Morning Show, Kevin Stone and I will be heading over to Wolfson Children’s Hospital to do a workshop with the therapy team.  This is always great fun – and provides lots of laughs while learning engaging ways to motivate patients to actually do their therapy!

wolfson

 

 

 

If you live in the Jacksonville area, come check out the show at the FLORIDA THEATRE – beautiful place!  You can buy your tickets HERE!

FloridaTheatre-inside

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL…

December 26th, 2013

Yesterday was a fantastic day!  Cindy and I spent most of the day at my brother’s house with family.  On the way there, my mom and dad called so we were able to talk for a bit before losing our AT&T cell signal (only Verizon in that part of town).  Christmas is such a special time of the year for so many reasons but, most importantly, because we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world.  It is this truth – the acceptance of this truth, this faith – that binds our family in ways that are much deeper than “family relationship.”

It is unfortunate that Christianity in America now includes so many “add ons” to faith.  One of the main reasons Jesus was born as a baby in genuine human flesh was to demonstrate to all of us that humanity is capable of displaying the Divine.  Being a Christ-follower simply means accepting the death of Jesus as our own sacrifice for the things we do that stand between us and a relationship with God.  If we approach the Christian life in a mechanical way, simply trying to imitate what we’ve read of Jesus in the Bible, we will inevitably fail.  It is about accepting His death for us and through that acceptance, we change at the core of who we are – and we are able to “display the Divine” in our own lives.  We are called to discover a life that is instinctive to us as “new creations.”  Christ becomes our pathway to forgiveness, the source of true fulfillment.  God wants us to know that Christ works in us, through us, and alongside us as a result of being spiritually joined to him.  Having Christ live through us begins with knowing that, as a result of believing, His life resides in us.  And in this process, He has no desire to erase our uniqueness and turn us into “Jesus clones.”  Each of us is gloriously designed and He considers our hobbies, interests, and sense of humor.  He wants to work through these individual characteristics in us to express Himself.  As a result of our faith, we are made for expression of Him.

As 2014 nears closer, it is my desire that my life will express the Divine – in my relationships, my attitudes, my actions, and the way I love people.

MY WEEK IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

December 8th, 2013

The first two weeks of November were fairly busy with performances and workshops in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Michigan.  But Cindy and I were able to relax as well by spending Thanksgiving with my family in Virginia.  The day after, I was on a flight to the United Kingdom.  I would be participating in a series of meetings that held a great deal of potential…but were shrouded in uncertainty.  Two extraordinary ladies whom I met in Vancouver at the IASE Conference in July – Bronwen and Judith – organized the trip.  They were operating totally on a “gut feeling” that we could find some exciting partnerships in the UK for this project.  And so, I was on my way to London.

1-Flight-CLT-LDN

Unlike my recent travel experiences with United, US Airways managed to keep their flights on schedule and the trip was uneventful.  I arrived at Heathrow, jumped on a bus to my hotel and spent the day in one of the greatest cities in the world – London.

The following morning, Sunday, I was at the train station for the journey to Newton Abbot, an enchanting community in Devon, the South of England.  I would be spending the next few days at Hannahs at Seale-Hayne, an extraordinary place for people of all abilities.  First Great Western graciously provided my ticket to start this adventure.  Carl picked me up at the Newton Abbot station and we were on our way to the Seale-Hayne.  I dropped my bags off at my room and Carl gave me a brief, but impressive, tour of the property.

3-Seale-Hayne1

This is quite a spectacular place!  On Monday, I was given a more organized tour of Seale-Hayne and the sister property at IvyBridge.  I also met up with the rest of the team here at Hannahs – some incredibly awesome people!

As you walk through the main arch of Seale-Hayne, you enter into the center of “campus” – a once agricultural university built in the early 1900’s and then, almost immediately, used as a hospital during WWI.  After the war, it became a part of Plymouth University with a focus on agriculture.

5-Seale-Hayne4  6-Seale_Hayne6

Today, it is owned and operated by The Dame Hannah Rogers Trust, a charity that serves the needs of individuals with disabilities of all types.  This is such a nurturing place for people of all abilities, integrating them into every facet of what happens here – from art, music, food preparation, service, etc.  And the buildings and the land are beautiful examples of their abilities.

7-Aurasma-Art-SealeHayne 8-Kevin-Butterfly-Art-SealeHayne

Even the Christmas tree at the front entrance is a piece of art – constructed of Coca-Cola cans and LED lights!

11-Seale-Hayne-ChristmasTree

Hannahs at IvyBridge is designed to meet the needs of people who have more complex and profound disabilities, most of them physical.  But the atmosphere is incredible and supportive – from cooking and fitness areas to some fun places for people to socialize.

12-Graffit-Bar-IvyBridge 13-Kevin-Graffit-IvyBridge

Tuesday was the big day for me.  More than 50 professionals gathered at Seale-Hayne to participate in an introduction on using magic tricks in the rehabilitation and education of people with disability.  The audience was diverse – occupational and speech therapists, physiotherapists, neuropsychologists, special educators, and professors from Plymouth and Exeter Universities.

The most exciting part?  They got it!  They could see the multi and interdisciplinary connections in using magic tricks to motivate and engage those with whom they work!  And now, we are exploring how to take this project to the next level in the UK – big adventures ahead!

After the workshop, everyone gathered for lunch for a Q&A.  In the afternoon, Karen drove a few if us into Plymouth to see some of the sites in this historic port city.  Then, all of us reconvened with the Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University and several of the disability support staff to begin a dialogue to discover potential connections with some of the academic departments.  In the evening, we all had dinner in the Royal William Yard area – historic and picturesque!

14-Plymouth-Lighthouse-Kevin

This is a great time to introduce you to two other people with whom I worked this week.  Anastasia is a student at the London School of Economics where she is completing a master’s degree in Human Rights.  She is a brilliant advocate for others with disabilities because she has cerebral palsy and lives the struggle each day.  I also met Allison, one of the people who assist Anastasia with her activities of daily life.  The three of us had a fun time exploring Plymouth!

15-Plymouth-Lighthouse-Group

Wednesday morning was an opportunity to sit down with directors and staff at Hannahs to sketch out how this relationship will develop in the future.  We’ve managed to put together a good starter plan that will give us a strong foundation on which to build.

In the afternoon, Karen took us to two small nearby towns to do a little shopping.  The first was definitely the most charming.  Sadly, I’m not sure how to spell the name of the town but it was close to Darlington – I remember is sounded like Lochness?  I took several photos, enjoyed the scenery, purchased a few Christmas gifts for Cindy, and stopped at one of the local bakeries for some original British pastries.

16-Tatness1 21-Tatness6-streets 20-Tatness5-river 19-Tatness4-street-view 18-Tatness3 17-Tatness2-Kevin-Church

On Thursday, I was up early, packed my suitcase, met everyone for breakfast and then we made our way to the Newton Abbot Train Station.  We boarded the Great Western Train to London and settled in for the ride.  We arrived at Paddington at about 2:30pm – just in time to make our way to our first meeting.

23-Kevin-PaddingtonStation

We arrived at the Marriott County Hall Hotel at 3pm.  This is a magnificent complex on the River Thames next to the London Eye.  As the sun began to set, the view of Parliament and Big Bend was stunning!

24-London-Skyline

Over tea, mulled wine, and sandwiches, we had our meeting with the CEO of the National Association of Special Schools.  They hold their annual conference in October to reach the 222 schools across the UK that serve the educational needs of students with disabilities.  We are investigating the possibilities of speaking at this conference in fall 2014.

Once we wrapped up the meeting, I caught a taxi to the London School of Economics (LSE) with Anastasia and Allison.  They were kind enough to let me drop off my bags in their flat.  The LSE accommodations are on Drury Lane, very close to where we had plans to meet several of the awesome people from Seale-Hayne for dinner.  One of Judith’s life-long friends also joined us.  She is an enchanting and delightful person named Maggie Steed.  She is also an accomplished stage and film actress who has starred in productions on Broadway and the West End.  We became fast friends over dinner sharing stories of life on the road.

25-Kevin_and_MaggieSteed

Sadly, over dinner we also learned of the death of Nelson Mandela.  We raised a toast to his work in human rights and his impact on the world.  Among the many highlights of the week was the “final act” – a chance to sit and visit with Nigel Planer who is starring as “Grandpa Joe” in the West End production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

26-Charlie-Marquee

After the show, Nigel gave us a backstage tour of the set at The Drury Lane Theatre.  And while I was allowed to take a lot of fantastic photos, sadly I can only share them with friends “in person” – not on social media, which means, you will have to take my word that it was MAGICAL!  I can share these photos because they reveal none of the magic of the set.

27-Kevin-CCF-Grass 28-Nigel_Planer

We talked well into the morning at the Loch Fyne Restaurant on Catherine Street, just around the corner from the Drury Lane Theatre.  It was a dazzling evening that I won’t soon forget.  Afterwards, I walked with Anastasia and Allison back to the LSE to pick up my bags and head toward my hotel at Heathrow.  Unfortunately, after a mind-blowing evening with friends, there wasn’t a train, bus, or taxi that would take me to Heathrow…which only lead to another adventure!

Christmas in Central London is beautiful, crowded, and crazy!  I walked from place to place hoping to find someone who would take me to my hotel.  From the West End – bags in tow – I walked through to Covent Garden with no luck.  I then made my way to Leister Square – no luck.  Continuing on to Trafalgar Square, I passed the South African Embassy where people had assembled and bag pipers played in memory of Mandela.  I stopped for a few minutes to FaceTime with Cindy to let her know I was okay…but still, no luck on a taxi.  I texted Bronwen at 1:30am (with great apologies) and she said she would make arrangements for a taxi from the Park Plaza Hotel.  I walked from Trafalgar Square, across the Westminster Bridge to the Park Plaza Hotel.  Steve greeted me in the lobby – a wonderful sight to see at 2am – and my taxi was on the way.  I couldn’t resist taking this photo as I crossed the Westminster Bridge.

29-London-Night

I arrived at Heathrow on Saturday morning only to find that there had been a major power outage in London that caused havoc with air traffic control in all of the airports in the area.  Flights were backed up for hours, especially those with international flight plans crossing the Atlantic.  Fortunately, our 4-hour delay was only 90 minutes and I’m sitting on USAir731 for Charlotte.  Soon, I’ll be home…but, after this trip, I’ll never be the same.

30-USAir

IT’S NOVEMBER, REALLY??

November 19th, 2013

It’s hard to believe it’s already November and the holidays are just around the corner.  I have so much for which to be thankful – an incredible wife, great family, supportive friends, amazing staff, and the privilege of working in the performing arts.  I wake up each morning to new opportunities and possibilities.

Rope-guy

October was filled with such moments.  The month started by connecting with some inspiring individuals from the Key Training Center in Florida.  You can see the “smile of success” on the face of this guy who performed his first magic trick – priceless!  You can check out all the pictures on FaceBook.

I’ve just finished reading a book titled CREATING INNOVATORS for some of my arts and education research.  The author stresses the importance of allowing children to play in order to find their passion and discover their purpose in life.  It reinforced some of the things I read in an interview with Thomas Sudhof, this year’s Nobel Price winner for Medicine and Physiology.  He said he owes his powers of analysis and concentration to his bassoon teacher – a true testament to the power of the arts!

2-CMU-HF-Propel

This month I also joined Susan O’Rourke (Chair of Special Education and Coordinator of Instructional Technology Certification at Carlow University) in the launch of a pilot project with Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University, and the Propel Charter School in Braddock, PA.  We are integrating magic tricks into STEM curriculum to help at-risk advanced placement high school students discover math and physics concepts in a visual, hands-on way.  Hopefully, we an get Congress to recognize the importance of the arts in education leading to a change from STEM to STEAM by including “arts” in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Creativity is a habit.  The problem is that schools today sometimes treat it as a bad habit.  And like any habit, creativity can either be encouraged or discouraged.  But when we allow students to learn creatively, we remove the stressors of “being right” and give them permission to take risks and make mistakes.  And through those mistakes, they develop self-determination, flexibility, adaptability, critical thinking, and problem solving abilities.  Creative problem solving comes from being engaged in what you are doing.  Teaching magic tricks to students – including those with disabilities – can do all of these things.

5-Truck-at-Ocala-Dock

I started my residency in Ocala with two performances and several workshops.  It was a great experience with many memorable moments.  It was my first time working at the Dassance Fine Arts Center at the College of Central Florida.  The director wrote,

“Kevin and Cindy Spencer’s visit to Ocala, Florida for two Theatre of Illusion shows and residency was much anticipated. The shows on Sunday and Monday in Marion and Citrus County wowed audiences with their amazing illusions. The visits to Hillcrest Public School for Exceptional Children and two Key Training Centers in Citrus County were definitely the highlight of their visit. To see the participant’s faces light up when they succeeded at learning a new magic trick as part of the Spencer’s program ‘Hocus Focus’ was special. Their excitement and delight was the gift that everyone who was present received from Kevin’s dedication to his magic and the audience he works with. Kevin, Cindy, their crew and their hands on style made them a pleasure to work with. A big ‘thank you’ from the College of Central Florida and its communities.”

6-Hilcrest-School-Ocala

Mike Collins is the Assistant Principle at Hillcrest School.  The philosophy there is the belief that the value of children is not found in their potential for productivity, but merely in their being.  It is their ultimate goal to help each student develop a unique sense of worth by training them to function as independently as they are individually capable of doing.

I spent the day working with almost 150 students.  By teaching them a couple of simple magic tricks, we were able to work on their ability to follow directions, planning and sequencing, improve their executive function abilities, and give them fun ways to engage socially with their peers and family.

Principle Collins wrote, “What a great experience. They talked about the tricks for days afterwards.  Thanks for all you do to brighten up the lives of students. We truly need more like you!!!!”

After 6 workshops at Hillcrest, I spent the following day at two locations of the Key Training Center working with some very special people.  I love working with these adults.  I can’t begin to put into words how awesome this experience is for everyone involved – check out these expressions!

8-HOM-AOTA Image

In addition to performances, I’m often contracted to do Continuing Education Workshops for Occupational and Physical Therapists. As Adjunct Faculty in the Occupational Therapy Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, this workshop has the endorsement of one of the most prestigious medical schools in the nation.  In addition, the American Occupational Therapy Association has granted their Approved Provider endorsement for continuing education as well.

8.5-Therapists

The workshop was contracted by the Occupational Therapy Department at Adventist University and open to area therapists.  Final evaluations were excellent and the directors of the program (Erin and Vicki) wrote this final note:

“I guess you know it already, but you are quite the rock star here. Seriously – I have not heard as much about a guest speaker (and we have many) in a LONG time.  Thanks again for the BEST Continuing Education Workshop we have ever been to in our 23 years of practice!”

9-DIXON-PAC

This was my third time to work in Andalusia and the experience just gets better and better!  I rolled into town for a three-day residency that would include a Continuing Education Workshop for area therapists, a Professional Development Training Session that connected with more than 50 area teachers, classroom activities for special needs students, and a final performance at the Dixon Center for the Arts.

10-Arts-Partnership

This was my second time working with The Arts Partnership but the first time we’ve done an extended residency program.  We started with a family-friendly performance at the Findlay High School (since their normal venue is being renovated) and then spent two days working in the community including 8 workshops with area students, a Professional Development Training program for teachers, and an academic presentation for future teachers at the University of Findlay’s College of Education.

That’s brings us up to date for October!  I’ll start writing about November soon, especially since it’s almost over!  This has already been a very busy month but great things are happening for sure!!