Mentors

I’ve been meaning to do this since the middle of October, and then I got involved with the Phantoms Feast thing, Halloween, life… But I’d like to take some time to talk about my mentors; those people that have helped me along the way to be the performer I am today. I’m sure I should have more than the few listed, but these are the first that come to mind.

I’ve mentioned working at the Wizards Tower with Steve, and I supposed Steve would be the latest in a short list of performers that have in some way influenced me and my act. As I’ve mentioned before, going into this past season at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival I hadn’t performed in front of any sizable audiences and it showed. It wasn’t for lack of trying.  I just hadn’t performed around other performers or people that understand magic and comedy,  and because of that I hadn’t had any real constructive feedback about my act for years. Being on The Tower allowed another performer that I respect to give me that feedback I so desperately needed. Steve was always generous with a line or an idea I could incorporate to improve my show.

For example, he gave me pointers on a new effect that I was working on early in the season; I had the basic idea but not the subtleties that come with doing magic for 30+ years.  I ended up not adding it to the act full time, but it ended up being great for those times when I needed something a little different in the show.

For me, personally, this was a year of growth, and Steve helped me when he saw I was struggling.  Those that saw the show at the beginning of the season, and then again at the end of the season have said that the show got better.

Call me when you’ve done a thousand shows…

Rod Sipe AKA Dr. Dumpe was another person that took me under his wing. My first year doing my own show at the Renfest back in 1999, he would come up to watch my show and give me some pointers. I was the young kid and he was the seasoned vet, so of course I listened. I’d seen the size if his audiences and that’s what I wanted, BIG audiences.

My next two years at the festival were the same, and then the following year my show was not renewed because of budget cuts. I still went out to the festival, I just didn’t have anything to do.

The following year Rod approached me about doing the suspended straitjacket escape that his son used to do. My job offstage was to do the grunt work (i.e. be a roadie) and I had no problem doing that, I was going to learn from the master.

Where else can you get paid to practice?

That’s the way it was, I did the heavy lifting and Rod survived to perform another day.  If you ask him today, he’ll tell you I saved his life. Between shows he would analyze the show we just got done doing and make changes in what I should be doing while on stage, and then we’d talk. He’d tell stories about places he’d been, people he’d met, crazy antics he’d got up to growing up, etc. And that’s the way it was day after day, I’d keep my head down and eyes open and just absorb everything. 

After doing the jacket for three years we moved to a less strenuous stunt with the broken glass. This was something I’d never seen done before and most of it was made up on the fly. Now, after hundreds of performances it’s become a showpiece; something to make the audience gasp and squirm. 

Anybody can buy a magic trick and call themselves a magician, it takes a performer to entertain!

Before that I have to go back to high school for another mentor, although at the time it didn’t feel that way. I worked at Worlds of Fun in the late 80’s for a guy that ran the Fool the Guesser game. I don’t even remember his name now. This was before WOF bought him out and started staffing it themselves. I learned a little about how to grab peoples attention and keep the crowd entertained for a few minutes while I made my guess. For two summers I guessed ages, weights, and birthday months.  Looking back now it’s more nostalgia than anything else, but man those were some good times. 

Hurry Hurry Hurry! Who’s gonna be next to try and fool the guesser!