3rd Weekend Update

This was a weekend of extremes. Saturday overall was good with lots of patrons turning out for the cooler weather. Most of the shows went well and we tried out a new arrangement for my mic so that I can be heard during the straitjacket escape. It didn’t work as well as we had hoped so I made some changes overnight and brought it in the next day and it was much better.

I said most of the shows went well, that doesn’t mean they all did. The second show of the day was a major blow to my confidence. Repeatedly I tried to engage the audience and got no reaction. At several points in the show where I typically get some sort of reaction I got nothing. I tried talking to one particular older  lady and she tells me she’s just there to watch the kids. That’s three strikes, I was out of there! I ended the show short and told them to come back later if they wanted to see more. No pitch, I just walk off the stage. Done, Finished, Kaput! Steve asked me about it and I tell him flat out the show went south, I was done.

We talked later and he said I did the right thing, but it sure shook me for a while. I mean really shook me. I have never felt that kind of helplessness on stage, ever. I didn’t know what to do so I did the only thing I could think of, and I thanked them for being there (even if I didn’t mean it) and  walked off. How can I, as a performer, expend energy for an audience that doesn’t react, at all. Short answer, I can’t. Live performance is a sort of dance, a give and take of energy and excitement. If only one half is expending all the energy, eventually they are going to be left with nothing. And that’s exactly where I ended up during that show and I got the hell out of Dodge.

Name your card
Mentally sending an image to a spectator

Once I had some time to go over what had happened, the rest of the day went much smoother. Shows went well, and the audiences responded at the hat.  Late in the day, I think it was between 5:30 and 6, we had a small group of college kids sit down and since Steve had just finished I went out and talked to them for a bit. I did a few small things, eventually bringing one of the girls on stage for my version of paper balls over the head (something I don’t normally do in a show, but something that I had been practicing. ) Her friends are laughing and she has no idea where the balls are going. After the third ball I look up and notice that several more people have joined in the audience. I do one more with a super large ball, I thank her for coming up and send her back to her seat. She looks back and sees the balls on the ground, she rolls her eyes and her friends get another good laugh. At this point I’ve got maybe 20-30 people sitting so I go ahead into some of my regular routines, finishing with the jacket. I love it when things just fall into place. Normally at that time I would have been done, but because of the way things worked out I had one of the best shows of the day.

Sunday, crowds were a little lighter. Steve had two aborted shows first thing because of rain, but after the rain it never really picked up like it had on Saturday. We figured it was because of the morning rain and also the Chiefs home opener against the Cowboys. Regardless the shows went well and the new mic arrangement for the jacket worked out well. I had some really good volunteers for the jacket and some new lines that got some good laughs. The patrons really cleared out late in the afternoon, so by 3:30 we were back to doing small magic in the benches for a few people. I managed to draw in enough people my last two shows that it was worthwhile but the audiences were still small.

Next weekend is obviously the fourth weekend, the midway point at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I know the crowds are only going to get bigger and  I’ll continue to get busier. I only hope I am up for the challenge.

My Biggest Fan

Sixteen years ago I met my biggest fan, although I didn’t know it at the time. What started out as verbal one-upmanship with a girl that I thought was pretty cute has led to some of the best times of my life. She has stood by when I doubted my skill and worth, and encouraged me to take steps to better myself. Even when I feel like I’m losing my joy, the twinkle in her eyes makes me smile.

Happy Met-U-Versary Honey!!

My Biggest Fan

Thank you for the past 16 years.

Weekend Number Two – KCRF

Typical of KCRF’s second weekend is the numbers slump, and no place was that more evident than at the Wizards Tower this weekend. Temperatures both days were at or near 100 degrees and people were not always willing to sit in the heat to watch a show. When I was able to get a small group to sit down I could typically start the show small and build the audience as the show progressed, but by about two pm each day the number of patrons had dwindled to the point of being imaginary. Steve and I ended up spending much of the afternoon doing tag team magic close-up in the seating which seemed to go over well for those that were there.

Sunday was no better, the first two audiences were so small I didn’t even pass the hat. However that did not stop several people from tipping me anyway. 🙂 I also had an older man ask if I was willing to travel to do a show this winter in Nebraska at his Scottish Rite Temple. Of course I told him I was open to it and he asked a price. I should have told him to contact me after the run but I gave him a price anyway and he didn’t seem too shocked, so I guess I’ll see what develops from that. My third show got an unusual boost from one member of the Rouges of Kansas City who decided he was  going to give me an audience one way or another. So I stood patiently as he shouted and drew the people in sometimes simply telling them to “get over here and sit down!” Former cop don’t take no sh*t! LOL.

This show featured a change in the straitjacket routine (courtesy of Steve Payton) that went over much better than expected. We also discussed a solution to the lack of microphone during the jacket escape and now have a fix I need to manufacture this week. Also discussed was another routine I’m working on and have been practicing for several weeks. It’s not ready for “prime time” but I did get the opportunity today to test it on a few willing audience members and after seeing it Steve offered a couple of ideas that may help it be more effective for me.

One of the more humorous things that happened this weekend was the sudden sound of Dr Dumpe coming from our sound system. It seems I can leave his show but his voice will be with me always. Must be the psychic bond…

Thoughts on the weekend.

Now that I’m outside the rush of an opening weekend, I want to put down a few thoughts that I can revisit later. This may ramble on but here goes:

Rod called me Friday and said he needed some help at the faire site. Little did I know I was in for a surprise. Ron Taylor aka Capt. Goldtooth had been asked by Rod this spring to make a banner for me. I found out about it on my trip to the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival and had assumed that I would get it on Saturday morning before the morning meeting. I had no clue what the banner would look like or say, but let me tell you, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.  Ron had incorporated lots of ideas from Rod using things we’d come up with during our shows together. They (with the help of my lovely sneaky wife) had also come up with a new stage name for my show. I am now Marvelous Matt! “Part time Hair Model / Stunt Double for Fabio and Kid Rock…” Really you have to see the banner to believe the amount of work that went into it. I am truly blessed with some of the best friends one could ask for.


Concerning Steve, he is as laid back as I am. He’s offering advice on things he notices during my shows, and I’ve incorporated a few of them. He’s trying to be helpful with out sounding pushy, and because he’s been performing a lot longer than I have I value his input. He is the veteran on the Wizards Tower and his advice has been very helpful. He wants to make sure things are “fair” meaning swapping who goes first each day so that both of us are doing well as far as tips go. He says they have figured out over the years that traffic up there tends to come in waves and it wouldn’t be fair if someone got all the good traffic all the time. I’m fine with it, I’m the new guy.

Saturday morning when I arrived in the rain I discovered that one of the lag bolts that holds up the shade had pulled loose from the tower structure. It looked like the wood had simply rotted and the weight of the rain pulled it out. Since Steve wasn’t there yet I went and asked my mentor and friend Rod if he could give me a hand getting it fixed. By the time I walked back up to the tower Steve had arrived and I showed him what had happened and told him Rod was on his way up. He drilled a new pilot hole and we replaced the bolt, got the turnbuckle reattached and it was good the rest of the weekend. With no rain forecast for the week I’m hoping it will last the remainder of the run. I’m already calculating a permanent fix in an overly engineered way using u-bolts and plates to spread the strain over a larger area.

It’s nice having enough show material that I can swap in and out at will to find what works in this venue. Monday morning (Labor Day) I had a particularly rough show, with a screaming baby, and another grown-up woman in the front row that wouldn’t shut up. In talking to Steve about it afterwards, I came to the realization that even though I never wanted to do kids shows, that’s what a good portion of my show had developed into. This week I’m going to see If I can put together a few things aimed a bit higher on the age range and work them into the show next week. I’ve got the material, I’ve just become complacent in where I’m at and this weekend showed me I can do better.

Because there are only two of us on this stage I miss talking with someone between shows. When I worked with Rod we would talk between shows about everything, the show, our wives, the magic club, etc. Now? Not so much. Steve and I talk while we’re setting up between shows, but it’s not the same. I guess, I don’t feel like I’m getting to decompress between shows. There isn’t the same camaraderie like I was used to. I’m not saying that it won’t develop over the next several weeks but right now I feel a little alone.

On the upside Monday afternoon as we were packing up Steve told me he feels such a sense of relief that I am on the tower with him. He was worried that we’d butt heads or I’d be completely out of touch about performing. He also indirectly paid me a compliment to a friend of his that went something along the lines of, “If I say something needs to be done, Matt does it before I can get to it. I’m not used to that.” It’s what I did for Rod, set-up tear down, whatever needed done I did, and it become habit.

Overall, I’m optimistic that the tower will be good to me and I’ll be good for the tower. With three days down and thirteen more to go with at least five shows a day, I’m sure to find my groove sooner rather than later.

It’s a show

Well into day two now and things are going well. Not as hot as yesterday but audiences are still a little thin. I’m really enjoying being back on stage at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Things are gelling well and Steve has been very helpful in figuring things out. Because of the “continuous magic” tradition at the tower we don’t really have any sort of schedule other than trading places every 40 minutes or so.
Last time I was doing my solo show at KCRF, was ten years ago and at a very small stage in what was more or less a dead end. Tips weren’t very good back then and the lack of traffic made it even worse but I had to start somewhere.
Several performers that have mentored me over the years asked how my hat (tips) had been yesterday and compared to the pitance I made all those years ago, the Wizards Tower is awesome. Audiences are very receptive to what I am doing and I can’t wait until the audiences get large enough to be self sustaining.

Can I do this?

I’ve been thinking over the last several days about the huge opportunity that has literally fallen into my lap. I finally get to do my own show at the festival again. I will be stepping in where a previous entertainer had been; a thirty-five year veteran, I will add. He decided he’d had enough and wanted to retire, plus I think he’s looking to the lecture circuit now. I’ve talked with several performer friends about this and they all point out that in a few years no one will even remember this previous performer. Thing is, I’m worried about what will perceived as a difference between his show and mine. Mine is rougher around the edges, more manic (kind of like me). His was polished. Everything he did was practiced and rehearsed to perfection. He seldom brought anything to the festival that hadn’t been worked on and tweaked until he knew it by heart. I prefer to break in new material “on the fly”, learning what works and doesn’t in the real world.

I keep asking myself if I can “fill his shoes”, but it occurred to me just now that I don’t have to. I am free to take whatever path I choose as long as it’s entertaining for the audience.


Media Party

Very new to the blogging thing so forgive me if I tend to ramble. That being said, KCRF Media Party happened. I got there early to set up my sound and load in some stuff I’ll need for the upcoming festival season. I mingled with the rest of the cast and invited guests chatting up those I knew from either previous years at faire or from the Bonner Springs City Council. I did my show, but since the Tower faces away from “the action” it was hard to get a number of people to stay for the show. It went mostly okay. I wasn’t completely happy with my show but I know what happened and I can fix it. Overall, I’m looking forward to the coming faire season and hopefully this will give me a chance to grow as a performer.