I am very pleased to announce that POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC has been chosen as an official finalist for the Outside the Box Film Festival to be held in Bakersfield, CA (November 7-9, 2014). This is our first letter of acceptance so we are all very excited!
Posts Tagged ‘special education’
This Blog has been a “work in progress” over several weeks, bits and pieces pulled together from Istanbul, Tanzania, Uganda, Cairo and, finally, on a train from Braga, Portugal to Lisbon. I am now at home in Virginia after an adventure that I still haven’t had the time to fully process. For 8 weeks, I traveled through 20 cities in 8 countries on 4 continents speaking at conferences, teaching educators, and working with vulnerable children in developing countries (extensively in Uganda). I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe this entire experience…and each time I try, I am completely overwhelmed by emotion. I do know this, there’s no way I could return to the USA and be the same person I was before I left. Those 8 weeks had a profound impact on me as a person, an artist and a member of our global society.
I wasn’t working alone in Uganda. A group of seven artists and educators formed a team we call SHOTS – taking a shot at changing the world through Service, Hope, Optimism, Teamwork, and Sustainability. This is a remarkable group of people and I’m proud to be associated with each one of them. Thank you Susan for your vision!
Over a period of 4 weeks, I was privileged to team up with Susan O’Rourke (Carlow University, PA) and participate in Professional Development training for literally hundreds of educators instructing them on arts-integrated techniques for teaching students of all abilities in their classroom. I also had the privilege of connecting with more than 10,000 children…I can’t even begin to describe the experience!
The month of June started in Akita, Japan with a presentation on the impact learning magic tricks can have in the development of pragmatic and social communication skills with English Second Language (ESL/ELL) learners. This presentation was based on an on-going research project being implemented in Ogden, UT within the city school district. Using the Hocus Focus curriculum, we are determining the potential benefits that using magic tricks can have on increasing language skills in ESL students.
Educators in the field of Language Studies gathered from all over the world for this conference. I joined a colleague from Weber State University, Melina Alexander, and our presentation was well received. As a result, we are exploring other possible research projects to develop this aspect of Hocus Focus more fully.
July ended in Braga, Portugal at the Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES) Conference. Working again with Susan O’Rourke from Carlow University in Pittsburgh (and immediate past-president of DISES), we made two presentations – one on The Magical Benefits of a Technology-mediated Arts Curriculum and another on Working with Vulnerable Children in Post-Conflict Uganda.
In the weeks between Japan and Portugal, I traveled thru Asia, Europe, and Africa. The experience was life changing, overwhelming, and emotional.
One of the many highlights of this trip was sharing it with one of my special friends, Mike Thompson – and the opportunity to meet and work with Kyle Holbrook. He is an amazing artist and the founder of Moving the Lives of Kids Forward Community Mural Project (the MLK Mural Project). His work can be seen all over the world in some of the toughest neighborhoods in major urban areas. Kyle designed a mural for the Bright Kids Uganda orphanage in Entebbe. Combining his mural with a little bit of magic, we spent three days giving a voice to vulnerable children that can still be heard through the images they created on this mural and the stories they told through their magic. It was a time of teamwork, creativity, and expression. Ultimately, the experience was about empowering vulnerable youth through art education – whether it’s visual art (the mural) or performance art (the magic).
Another memorable moment was working with the Teso Tribe in the village of Opucet, literally translated “the village of peace.” The SHOTS team worked hand-in-hand with the tribe to lay the foundation for an inclusive school that will educate all children in the area. Check out this welcome dance!
At the end of our time together, they brought me before the elders of the tribe and gave me a new name, Emural. In the Ateso language, it represents “the one who is a symbol of our clan and expands our borders.” There is a lot of responsibility connected with a name like that!
If you want to “experience” a portion of my UGANDA ADVENTURE, you can watch this presentation:
POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC
The world premiere of my short documentary – POWERFUL MEDICINE: SIMPLY MAGIC – took place in Portugal on July 17 at the DISES Conference. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre as an audience of more than 400 watched and responded with a standing ovation.
Powerful Medicine: Simply Magic explores the transformational benefits of the art of illusion in bringing about authentic and meaningful changes in the lives of individuals with different abilities. The film gives a compelling voice to those whom are “different” reminding all of us that they are remarkable people capable of doing extraordinary things. These voices urge us to acknowledge that their futures are often molded by our attitudes and perceptions about them. As a global society, we must start appreciating what they can do and stop focusing on what we believe they can’t do. You can check out the trailer HERE:
In September, I am planning a national media blitz with several appearances on the FOX News channel in NYC. And I have already begun submitting the film to various international film festivals.
Everyone who supports people with disabilities is, in some way, an advocate for their best interests. The international conversation about disability issues has been taking place for years but change – real change – must happen in the hearts and minds of ordinary people, not merely in policy and law. You and I can raise awareness of international disability issues, change people’s perceptions and attitudes, and provide opportunities for individuals with different abilities to share in the global society. If you agree that we can’t stay where we are on this issue, then I hope you’ll be a part of looking for a better way forward. You can start by joining us on Facebook!
FLINT HILLS SUMMER MAGIC CAMP
During the months of June and July, more than 80 kids enrolled in the Flint Hills Summer Magic Camp in Manhattan, KS. This was the pilot program for an on-going research project to evaluate the benefits of learning magic tricks on executive function and communication skills of children on the autism spectrum and with ADHD.
As August began, Eli and I drove to Oxford, Ohio to conduct Magic Camp at the Miami University of Ohio – more on that camp next time!
We spent last week working in Ocala, FL. The adventure started with a two performances – one in Lecanto and the other in Ocala. We’ve performed in both venues twice in the past and this time the audiences were even more enthusiastic and excited. Two great crowds for these shows! And two great crews as well (thanks Andy).
Here are a few pictures of set up from those two days:
After the performances, I spent two days working in the community. The first day was at the Hillcrest School working with some very special students. I love these working with these kids – they are simply amazing!
I did 6 workshops here throughout the day with more than 100 students. The following day, I went to the Key Training Center locations in Lecanto and Inverness to conduct workshops with adults with disabilities. I can’t begin to put into words how awesome this experience is for me. Check out these expressions!!
Today we are driving to Andalusia, AL for two days of community outreach and a public performance!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
After a few days at home, it was time to head out again for our tour in the Midwest. First stop, South Dakota! Eli, Chase, and I left Lynchburg and three days later, we arrived in Aberdeen, SD. There had been plenty of advertising in advance of our show including this article in the ABERDEEN NEWS.
MONDAY – APRIL 8
The first day in Aberdeen was spent working in several places: first at Project Search and then in some of the schools with incredible kids. We worked in elementary, middle, and the high school with students who could improve their skills through learning some simple tricks.
Actually, the high school workshop was one of the most fun! In the photo below, I’m doing a little magic for a group of high school guys. You can see the expression on their faces as five $1 bills turned into $500.
After a few tricks, I spent some time teaching all of them a trick or two. One of the students, Josh, learned several tricks but he also had great stories. Once again, the Aberdeen News captured the day in a nice feature story.
TUESDAY – APRIL 9
The next day started with a radio interview on one of the local arts programs. This was broadcast live – and I love these kinds of interviews! They are spontaneous and you just have to go with the flow.
Following the radio interview, Chase and I were on our way to St. Luke’s Avera Health Hospital to do a 3-hour continuing education workshop for physical and occupational therapists. When we arrived at the Hospital, Dalita (the director of rehabilitation) had everything ready to go. I walked into the conference room and we kicked into gear. It’s amazing to me how quickly 3 hours can go when everyone is fully engaged in learning. Chase and I spent the afternoon working with clients in various rehabilitation departments until about 5pm.
Eli spent the day driving to Sioux Falls to pick up Keith and Cindy at the airport. Unfortunately, horrible weather was also moving into the region – horrible as in ice and snow storm! As a result of all the bad weather, all flights were delayed in/out of Chicago. They finally landed a few hours late and, by that time, ice was destroying Sioux Falls. Trees were breaking. Power lines were snapping. Roads were in rough shape, covered in ice and snow. This turned into a BLIZZARD with more than 20 inches of snow falling. Thankfully, they made it back to Aberdeen safely and we had avoided the storm.
As it turns out, this was not the end of the adventure. Once they made it back to the hotel, Cindy started to become very sick. By 3:30am, we were in the emergency room at the very same hospital where I had done a workshop earlier in the day. She had picked up a virus or (most likely) some sort of food poisoning during the day. We spent the next several hours at the hospital trying to get her feeling better.
WEDNESDAY – APRIL 10
After getting Cindy back to the hotel around 7am, I grabbed a couple hours of sleep before it was time to drive over to the Aberdeen Civic Theatre to start setting up for the evening show. There’s no way Cindy was going to be able to do a show so we were also going to have to do a little “adapting” to pull it all together! Chase and Eli did a great job of splitting up her responsibilities during the show. In the end, it all came together well.
We pulled into the loading area, Stacy and Dawn were there to meet us…along with a crew of guys to help get unloaded. Let the day begin – again.
I made a couple of trips back to the hotel during the day to check in on Cindy. I wanted to make sure she was resting comfortably and that she was taking the medications she needed. Stacy was so understanding in all of this and even put together some chicken broth for me to take back to her.
When I returned to the theatre, it was almost time for the doors to open. The guys had figured out most of how the show was going to run – who was going to do what – but we still had one issue to resolve. I had promised many of the people in the Aberdeen community that I would, in fact, be “cutting someone in half” during tonight’s show. It doesn’t make any difference how many new, cutting-edge illusions you have in a show. If you don’t cut someone in half, it’s just not a magic show! With Cindy sick in the hotel, Chase volunteered to step into her place. And he did a great job with the performance!
THURSDAY – APRIL 11
After the show, the snow started coming down in Aberdeen. We had been spared for the last 3 days while much of the state was slammed with snow. Interstate 90 from Sioux Falls to Rapid City was closed. And city officials were still trying to pull together things in Sioux City. As we o up on Thursday morning, it was clear that we were not going to be going anywhere today. I was supposed to be doing some Hocus Focus work in Sisseton – a small community about 90 miles from Aberdeen. At 5:40am, the decision was made to close schools…which means I got to stay in for the day and try to catch up on some work.
FRIDAY – APRIL 12
This morning, we left Aberdeen for Grand Forks, ND…show here on Saturday night at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. And guess what? It’s snowing.
I had a great weekend…and a busy Monday! After being home for a couple of days, we were off to New Jersey for a Sunday matinee performance at SOPAC. This would be our third or forth time working with Brian, Raf, and Josh…and we always have a great time there! We had a near capacity house of the show and the audience was fantastic. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Once the show was over, Cindy and I jumped into a rental car to make the drive into New York City. I was booked on the national television morning show, FOX & FRIENDS on the Fox News Channel. March is national Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Awareness month. I was invited to be a guest on the show to talk about the role the arts can play in helping those with disabilities improve many of the skills they find challenging.
I was on the “curvy couch” as they call it with Gretchen Carlson. She has such a great way of making you feel comfortable and conversational. She and I first met about 10 years ago and we’ve remained friends since that time. If you missed the main interview, you can watch it HERE:
After the main show is over, there is an internet-only program called the “AFTER-THE-SHOW” show. This happens on the set but it streams live on the Fox News website. I was asked to stick around and be on the show where we talked more about the BAG OF TRICKS documentary that I’m working on.
You can watch that interview HERE:
And I finally have a website pulled together for the film. Please check it out at www.BagOfTricksFilm.com.
For more than 3 years, I’ve been working quietly on a project that I believe is going to be amazing. It’s a unique documentary on the power of simple magic tricks to bring about positive change in the lives of people with disabilities. This film shares the real stories of real people from all over the world and their efforts to overcome what others might consider “impossible” odds. Most importantly, it’s about hope – the hope and confidence they gain by achieving the “impossible.” Their stories are phenomenal, encouraging, and life changing!
Check out the Indiegogo Campaign by clicking the image below – and, please, think about making a contribution. Every little bit makes a HUGE difference!
These are my goals with the Bag of Tricks crowd-funding campaign:
- To change people’s attitudes and perceptions about individuals with disabilities;
- To raise awareness of international disability issues and provide opportunities for individuals with different abilities to share in the global society.
- To begin a meaningful conversation about the power of the arts in our communities to challenge, transform, inspire, and change lives.
- To raise money to finish the documentary – filming some international projects, editing, music, distribution, legal fees, etc.
Almost every person in every society around the world has been touched in some way by a person living with disability. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, extended family, and friends – all have been impacted by the life of someone with a developmental or intellectual disability, including the almost epidemic explosion of autism spectrum disorders.
Everyone who supports people with disabilities is, in some way, an advocate for their best interests. The future of individuals with disability is contingent on the perceptions and attitudes of those without disability. It is pivotal that we stop focusing on their disabilities and start appreciating their abilities.
In spite of international laws and policies, many people with disabilities still find themselves pushed to the margins of our societies. And almost all encounter prejudice, bullying, insensitive treatment, and discrimination. These attitudes and actions cause their world to become smaller. Their opportunities become more limited, and, ultimately, they withdraw from the wider community. That’s not acceptable – and that has to change. I can think of no better time than NOW to confront these attitudes in a positive way and jump-start the change that can make a difference in their lives.
Please consider making a donation to this cause. And if you can’t contribute, then share this campaign with other through Facebook, Twitter, Email, Phone Calls, or just plain old Word-of-Mouth!
The fall performance tour has wrapped up but I’m still doing some outreach work with different venues. Today, Chase and I fly to Flint, MI to work with two of our favorite people – Christi and Wendi at The Whiting! Christi has worked very hard over the last many weeks to put together a great residency program for us with the Hocus Focus project. I’ll be writing and posting throughout the week….so stay tuned?
We arrived in Oxford, OH on Sunday night in advance of some of the work we would be doing in the community in the two days prior to the performance at Miami University’s Hall Auditorium. Patti and David worked hard to pull together some really exciting opportunities for me. On Monday morning, David stopped by the hotel to pick me up (along with Chase and Eli) to drive over to the University. They had scheduled Hocus Focus presentations for two different Introduction to Special Education classes on campus. This is a great opportunity for me to demonstrate the power of the arts in the education process with future teachers. The earlier they are exposed to these concepts, the more likely they are to actually use them in the classrooms. After a powerpoint presentation, we started learning some easy magic tricks. After mastering each one, students participated in a task analysis of each to see how it could be aligned with national or common core state standards of learning.
They were fast learners – and they were able to see the value in “arts integration” for not only special education students, but all learners in general.
In between classroom presentations, we managed to grab a pretty awesome lunch (thank you David) at one of the local restaurants. Great food! One more activity helped close out a fantastic first day in Oxford – a visit to The Knolls, a residential community for seniors. We worked with some of the residents there, teaching them a few tricks but (more importantly) sharing stories, smiles, and some laughs. What a fantastic first day!! You can see more pictures on the Miami University Facebook Page – HERE and HERE.
Today (Tuesday) was another great day. We started off on the Miami University campus working with two groups of students in the University’s mentoring program – one group in the morning and one in the afternoon. These are high school students who are working to improve certain skills – and many of those goals can be achieved when you learn a magic trick. This is my favorite picture of the day. Austin is an amazing young man that will attempt anything – nothing slows this guy down and he did some incredible tricks today.
Tomorrow is the show at Hall Auditorium at 7:30pm – there are still a few tickets available so come have some fun! Click HERE to buy tickets!