Posts Tagged ‘Theatre of Illusion’

IT’S MARCH…

Saturday, 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.

TOBAGO DAY THREE

Sunday, 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.

 

SIOUX FALLS, SD

Sunday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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!

ABERDEEN, SOUTH DAKOTA

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

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.

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.

Kevin-Alex-Aberdeen

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.

Kevin-CentraHS-HundyBoys

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.

Josh-paperclips

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.

Avera-HOM

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.

SiouxFalls-ice

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.

Cindy-hospital

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.

Aberdeen-Theatre-Inside

 

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!

Chase-getting-In-Cube

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.

Snowy-truckSD

 

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.

CREATIVITY

Friday, February 1st, 2013

I’ve had a remarkable week working with Bay Arts Alliance in Panama City, FL.  First, the weather has been amazing BUT, much more than that, Jennifer has had me engaged in some great outreach activities.  I’m going to write about those in my next post.

Our show tonight is at the Marina Civic Center.  Today’s NEW HERALD had a nice preview of the show.  But here’s my challenge for today, “What will you create that will make the world awesome?”  Well, check out this Pep Talk for a little inspiration!

SPRINGFIELD, OH

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

We finally arrived in Springfield, OH after two days of driving in the snow.  Guess what?  It was snowing in Springfield!  Oh well, I guess it is January and we are in the north.

Once we were settled into the hotel, our next stop was the Springfield Regional Medical Center.  David (Springfield Arts Council) had made arrangements for me to do a workshops for the therapists.  I’m always impressed that they are willing to stay for another 3 hours after they’ve been working for 8 hours, but they did – and they were great fun to work with.  We had a group of about 15 ready to learn a new treatment technique for their clients.

The following day was our performance at Kuss Auditorium in Springfield.  There was a nice article in the local paper about the show so tickets had been selling very well and we were practically sold out.  In spite of the weather, the auditorium was packed – about 1500 seats.

We arrived at the loading dock just as the plow was removing the last bit of snow.  Load in went smoothly with an enthusiastic crew – and the day moved along very well.  Here’s a pictorial glance of the day:

LOAD IN

CASES ON STAGE

HANGING THE SCENERY & LIGHTS

FOCUSING THE LIGHTS

This was my first full 2-hour performance since my shoulder surgery.  I was a little nervous about some of the illusions but knew that adrenaline would push me through any challenges.  Overall, things went great!  The underwater escape was the one that gave us the most concern…but it all worked out.

We left Springfield with great memories of a great experience and wonderful audience.  Off to Florida!

ON THE ROAD…

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

After several weeks off the road (to recover from my shoulder surgery), today we start our 2013 tour.  In the next few days, we have two performances in Boston, a Healing of Magic workshop for therapists in Springfield (OH) followed by a performance the next evening.  There was a nice article in the SPRINGFIELD NEWS SUN last week about the show.  You can read that article HERE.

Once we wrap up in OH and MA, we are off to Florida…and, hopefully, warmer temperatures!

I have begun working on an exciting new project.  I really can’t talk much about it at the moment but, I promise, I’ll keep you posted when the time is right!

If you’re interested, my first article appeared in KIDZEDGE MAGAZINE on January 13, 2013.  You can find the article HERE.

WELCOME 2013

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR – it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around 2013, but here it is.  Cindy and I brought the new year in quietly and at home.  I’ve been home a lot these last few weeks as a result of my shoulder reconstruction.  Things are moving along well and I should be good-to-go for our first performances later this month

Even though I’ve been home, I have been busy.  I successfully completed my Certification in Autism Studies and I’m working now on getting registered as a Qualified Autism Services Practitioner.  I also had another research paper published, this time in the Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education.  We are moving forward with additional research projects this spring and will be collaborating with one of our colleagues in Belfast on a “hand therapy” project.  It should be very interesting.

We’ve added some new illusions to the show as well.  I’m always excited when we can incorporate new magic into the show.  We are a bit slower than most when it comes to this.  Perhaps, we just want everything to be perfect before we put it on the stage in front of a live audience.  The Invisible Lady is turning into one of our favorite illusions – a great twist at the end!

And then there’s some of our favorites – especially the “Spikes of Doom” with a bog volunteer from the audience!  This picture is from our last performance.  This young man stepped in AFTER the first boy ran from the stage when he saw the spikes!

Several of the illusions also have a very personal connection, like this one.  It was created by u best first in magic, Andre Kole.  He gave Doug Henning permission to perform the illusion (the prop in the picture) and then Andre passed it along to us.  There’s a lot of history in this illusion!

I’m working hard this week with my physical therapists to get ready for the tour to begin.  I’ll be in New York City this weekend for a series of meetings and then we’re off to Boston for our first shows of 2013!