I know I said I was going to break these up into quarters but not a lot happened in the months after the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. 2018 ended the way it should have, surrounded by friends and family and lots of wishes of grand adventures in 2019.
We were notified that Norman Medieval Fair was not hiring Marvelous Matt this year. I was one of the newer acts and they had had several years of falling revenue so I was cut. It was a solid blow to my ego, but I said it over on Facebook and I’ll say it here again, “No hard feelings.” I understand budget cuts and tightening one’s belt, but for some reason it just felt personal. Applications for the 2020 Fair are open now and my application has already been submitted.
I performed again at the Kansas City Magic Showcase in February. This time snow was forecast for the evening so almost nobody showed up. Besides my own act, I also teamed up with longtime friend Rod Sipe to walk on a bed of broken glass. By the time the show was over there was almost 4″ of snow on the ground.
Guess what? I’m coming back to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival for 2019. (ha ha) The festival had a shindig to announce all the returning acts as well as audition dates for street cast. It was good to see those people I only see at KCRF in street clothes. They also announced the return of The Lord Mayor’s Company, which my wife is a part of. At this point things are coming together for the spring and summer 2019 events.
I returned to the Great Plains Renaissance Festival in Wichita for the first time in many, many years. It ended up being a cold and windy weekend, but no rain, thank goodness. All shows seem to be well received and the festival was pretty well attended from my point of view. I made a few changes to pacing in the show and it really seemed to help keep moving things along. They also do a fall festival and asked about my availability, but KCRF was already booked.
Final weekend of April we went down to OKRF (Oklahoma Renaissance Festival) to work in a clothing shop, T’Ger Toggs. This is the same person my wife works for at the Kansas City festival. The original thought was that since my wife would be there anyway she could run the shop while I performed. He applied to vend and was accepted, I was not, so we ended up working the shop four of six weekends. Still had a good time meeting and renewing friendships with a bunch of people.
I was asked to perform at the Kansas City Magic Showcase for the second time. It was an amazing experience. If you haven’t been, I cannot recommend highly enough that you should go. It’s $5 at the door, Westport Coffeehouse is upstairs or the Green Room Bar is next door if you want food and/or drinks.
It’s always nice to have an appreciative audience and the effects I presented were well received. I have to laugh because after my segment the MC said that he was told to keep it family friendly and that I pushed every boundary of that…
I know I’m writing this almost a year late but I figured I’d give you, the reader, a selection of posts to chose from. I’m going to do a couple of posts, breaking up the last year into quarters, so it’s not one huge post. In the future I’m going to strive to post something at least once a month. With that said, lets get into it…
Now the 2018 KCRF wrap-up
The biggest thing I was looking forward to adding to the 2018 show was the new illusion. Because it arrived two days before the festival I had no rehearsal with it so I did what I do best, I made it up as I went.
This is the Audience Acupuncture, or as I like to call it during the show, The Spike Table, modeled by my daughter in our basement. I wasn’t able to get any photos of the illusion in action at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Overall, I think it worked out pretty well. There were some technical issues during performance that caused me to abandon the effect mid-routine, but when it did work I think it was pretty well received. There are a few tweaks I need to make to the routine to make it stronger but I’m happy the way it worked out.
Generally, KCRF 2018 was okay and it wasn’t just me. I spoke to many vendors and performers, and everybody had a down year. The biggest thing I remember about last year was how much it rained; either late in the week so the site was still wet or during the festival day itself. It was the lowest attended festival in over 30 years by a third or more.
One exciting thing that happened in August 2018 was that I was approached about performing at another faire. This was an event I had been working toward getting into for several years and they wanted a video which I did not have. I worked up a little promo video using existing clips and photos. I thought it was okay for being something I put together myself, but they wanted a complete performance video. My wife hired a friend that does video editing and he brought out five cameras during the festival and put together a full video. It was rough to watch myself and it suffered from lack of an audience but I sent it off anyway. I did not get the gig; they said I was too similar to other acts they already had.
So there you have it. The WAAAAAY overdue 2018 wrap-up post. Like I said above I’m going to go back and fill in some gaps from the last year. I’ll probably start in July last year just to make sure everything is covered.
Last time I posted I mentioned that I had been in Vegas. Purchase happened in early April and due to some mis-communication delivery was delayed. I was hoping to have this illusion by mid-June so I’d have some rehearsal time with it; it will now be delivered (hopefully) by the end of next week (8/10). I’ll let you know how it goes.
In other news, I was at the Norman Medieval festival for the second year. I was on a new stage this year with two music acts so I was unsure how this would go. Friday was chilly and I got in three out of four shows before the entertainment director pulled me off stage and told me to save my voice for the weekend.
Saturday started with a message from the Entertainment coordinator that they were delaying opening the faire until 2pm due to the frigid temps. I ended up doing four back to back shows in the five hours we were open because the cold temps weren’t good for the music group’s instruments. Full audiences for every show due to about half the acts at the fair not being there. By the time the day ended I think it was in the 50’s and I was feeling good. Sunday ended up being breezy but not as cold. I did my four shows, the final one was raucous with the Oklahoma University Rugby Team in attendance. Go Butters!!
I also performed at the Renaissance Festival of Nebraska for the opening weekend of this two weekend event. This year I trimmed up my show before arrival unlike last year where I got there and found out show slots were 30 minutes. FYI – 30 minutes means 20-22 minutes of actual show, the rest is setup and tear down. Anyway, I shortened my show and it went over really well this year. I’d like to convince the owner to hire me for both weekends, but based on conversations with several other performers, he likes to change things up each weekend. Oh well, maybe someday.
I also appeared, again, at the K-96 June Jaunt event in Great Bend, KS. This was the seventh year for this event and I’ve been there for all of them. The June Jaunt was originally a regional event with each city along the K-96 corridor doing it’s own local events. Over the years I think some cities have dropped out, but Great Bend is still going strong thanks to Christina Hayes who is the Community Coordinator for the city. It’s always a pleasure doing shows like this. This year I even had a gentleman introduce himself to me that said he came from Wichita to see my show and that he wasn’t disappointed. No pictures from this event because my wonderful wife was painting faces all day.
That’s about it for the last four months. I’ve got some things in the works for next year already and I’m hoping everything comes through. Look for me at an event near you.
I promised I’d make this post shortly after KCRF was over. It’s now mid December so I’m a little behind. **It’s now almost mid-January… I suck at these things**
I never felt like this year really ‘took off’. Did I have good shows? Yeah, I know I did. Were there some stinker shows? Definitely. It just felt like something was off. The crowd sizes were down a bit from last year. I heard after the fact that we never got near any of the record numbers we’d had in years past. The weather, although mostly nice, stayed way warmer than most people were expecting, even into the final weekend. There were only two variations to that. I remember one day of hurricane type rains and one day where it only got into the 60’s, but overall it was mid-80’s or above for the entire run.
I did try out a few new effects this year. One was something I worked on last year so I rotated it in and out as needed. It may need to have some editing done to the script because it started to feel too long but otherwise it’s a keeper. One was something I learned at a lecture early in the season and by the end of the run it was a staple of the show. The last effect was a rope trick I thought was really cool, but I either need to devote more time to it or drop it. It never really gelled the way I thought it should and didn’t seem to make much of an impact.
Of course, I still closed with the straitjacket. This was the fifth year doing it in my show so I’m thinking it’s time for a change. Do I want to do another escape? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll be in Vegas in February and I’ve already talked with an illusion builder there, so we’ll see if he has anything to suggest that’s in my budget. Maybe I’ll keep the jacket and do something bigger in the middle of the show. Who knows?
I met that illusion builder at a magic “convention” at the beginning of November called The Workshop. This was a one of a kind event for magicians to learn from the pros and to meet others who are looking to further their performance. If you follow my Facebook page I posted a bunch of pictures there during the event. I came home tired, but I have several new effects to work on this year. I’m glad I went because the gentleman that produces it says this is definitely the last one ever.
After that, Thanksgiving came and went and so did Christmas and New Years. I guess at this point I’ll just say that I hope to see you soon and I’ll talk to you later. Ciao!
I had originally started a post back at the beginning of November, but then forgot I left it in draft mode. I have now deleted that original post and am back to update, but first a recap.
Last season at KCRF was an odd one. My feeling is that several things contributed to this “oddness”. First off the weather was very atypical for this time of year. It wasn’t overly hot in the beginning and it never got cold or even cool near the end. If I remember correctly the final weekend temps were in the mid 80’s which is very unusual for an October day in Kansas City. The other factor may have been that many people had a feeling of uncertainty about the upcoming election in November. Usually people come out to the festival to escape their problems for a time, but this year it seemed people were having a harder time leaving those problems outside the faire.
On a more upward note, negotiations are progressing and it looks like I will be adding three events to my schedule this year. One I did about a decade ago and is now under new management, the other two are new events to me. I’m very excited to be able to bring my show to these new audiences. I’ve grown as a performer over the last several years and this will be an opportunity to see how far I’ve come.
I should probably end there for now. Once I have everything finalized with the new events this year I’ll update with dates and locations so that you know where you can find me on the road.
So I usually try to do an end of season wrap up. This year I kept putting it off until I almost forgot about it. Thankfully somebody just posted on Facebook about the number of pages that don’t get updated very often and that reminded me that this post was over due.
Many thanks are due to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival cast and staff, without your dedication to the festival I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I also want to thank the many people that stuck around after the show to say how much they enjoyed it.
The short of it is that this was my best year ever (so far). The weather was some of the best I can remember, in my 25 years out at KCRF, for the whole seven weeks. But because Labor day was farther into September than it had been in a decade many people thought our last weekend was Columbus Day Weekend when in fact the seventh weekend was the following weekend. This also had the effect of making the last few mornings really cold…Brrrrrr!!!
Overall, the show itself didn’t change much. I ended up dropping one effect in order to shorten the show so we could do more shows in a day. Then I had two other effects I had been working on over the summer that got switched in and out over the weeks. Both were well received so I may make a permanent change to the show for next year. The biggest improvement to the show happened second weekend and took me (with Steve’s input) two more weeks to get to point where it was consistent. We made one small change to the straitjacket (Thanks Tom Burgoon!) that made a few people squirm and many people gasp or groan in sympathy. If you saw the show you know what it was, if not you’ll need to come see it next year.
There’s a saying in the entertainment world that you shouldn’t outrun your audience; meaning that you should reflect their energy level in your show. This year it was sometimes hard to figure out where the energy level was. Because of this applause was sporadic and inconsistent. For example a show would start great and then all of a sudden it was if somebody was applying the brakes, or even worse the energy level would fluctuate starting good then sputtering and then gaining again before falling again. I know it wasn’t just me, I heard the same thing from many entertainers at this years festival.
As is typical in the winter off season I’m getting ready to start planning next years show. I already have one effect I’m really looking forward to practicing and perfecting for next year. Something I hope will really wow the audience.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Again, thanks to all those people that decided to sit through a show and even bigger thanks for all of you that put a little something in my hat at the end.
Sometimes people ask, “What do you do to get ready for KC Renfest?” This year it was construction.
The hut on the current Wizards Tower was built 20+ years ago, has had very little maintenance, and was literally ready to fall in on us.
It’s probably hard to see in these pictures but there was a huge dip in the roof.
It turns out that there was almost no support structure left beneath the shingles. The plywood decking was rotted and infested with termites. The joists, where they still held together, were soft and spongy.
Those pictures are looking down into the hut from the staircase that runs up the tower. Not much left is there? And most of it just fell in after removing the industrial plastic sheeting that was afixed inside.
Once we got the rest of the roofing off we started rebuilding. I wish I had got pictures of the nearly finished roof but at the end of the day I was so tired and sore I forgot. Maybe I’ll go out today so you can see where we’re at.
EDIT: Here are pictures from this morning showing our progress.
New joists are in and new decking is up. I can now stand on the roof without fear of falling through to my death.
Later this week we’ll go back out and do the felt and shingles.
I just realized I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks so I’m going to attempt to make up for that right now.
Going back to second weekend, I’ll say there wasn’t a huge dip in attendance like there has been in the past. This may be due to the fact that it wasn’t unbearably hot. Other than that, I don’t really have any stand out moments to share.
Third weekend was a tough one for me. Audiences were for the most part unresponsive and quiet. There were some good shows, but most just felt like I was performing behind a pane of glass. I couldn’t get a connection or a reaction to what are typically strong spots in the show and that really made me question why I was doing what I do.
Then last weekend (fourth weekend) was a turn around weekend for me, or at least that’s the way it seems. Saturday was odd, It was almost oppressively humid, the skies were overcast most of the day, and there was the chance of rain forecast for most of the day that never materialized. I had a few good shows, and the crowds thinned out early because of the predicted rain which left us doing some smaller shows late in the day. Sunday really was a beautiful day, cool and dry and people really seemed to be looking for a good time. The only downside I had was that I should have hung the straitjacket to dry overnight because it absorbed so much moisture the day previous. Ah, live and learn.
My biggest accomplishment from the day was my last show. The mic pack had died during Steve’s show and there weren’t very many people wandering around so I didn’t bother putting it on. I did a trick I call a Perception Test for a group of high school guys from Manhattan. For those that don’t know an audience member is brought on stage and a trick is done for them, but every body in the audience can see how it’s done. It went over pretty well and a few more people had sat down. I run through a few more small effects and more people sit down. By now the gypsy drum show thing has started down the hill and I’m fighting to be heard over them (a daily annoyance), but more people keep joining my audience so I keep going. I’m doing my effects randomly and not in the order I’d normally do them. I finish up what I decide will be my final effect and look up to see standing room only. Even with the loud drums people have made the choice to stay and see what I’d do next. So I decide to finish the show with the jacket. OMG! I had the perfect volunteer, she laughed and the audience was responsive. The lady I asked to be the timekeeper had a squeeky laugh and I got her to going so hard I thought she was going to hyperventilate. Plus every time she laughed the audience laughed so It wasn’t a distraction at all. I finally got her calmed down enough to do her part and I did the escape.
That last show I didn’t use the mic and considering I was talking over the drums for a good portion of it, the audience seemed more attentive than those shows where I’m using the mic. I know it certainly helps when the crowds are huge or for drawing an audience, but I’m not convinced I need it when the audience is small. And I’m not convinced I could do six shows a day without a mic without destroying my voice.
Wow! That’s a good descriptor for what I’m feeling. In the 24 years I’ve been doing the Kansas City Renaissance Festival the opening weekend is always a mixed bag. It was hot and humid Saturday and Sunday, and then Labor Day Monday was cooler but still just as humid. Saturday audiences arrived early and left early too which meant we at the Wizards Tower had no one to entertain by mid afternoon. Sunday wasn’t much better, although it felt like the crowds stuck around a bit longer, but once again 3:30-4:00 o’clock and we were facing a no mans land again. Monday was more of the same. It had rained overnight so it’s possible that people thought that the grounds would be soggy and gross, but it tends to drain pretty fast and in the few trips I made down the hill there were only a few places that could be considered muddy.
The crowds that did make it out each day were there to have fun and there was much laughter at the Wizards Tower each day, but I could feel the energy ebbing as each hour passed and by the end of each day it got more and more difficult to bring much more than a smile to many in our audiences.
Monday afternoon it became difficult to draw the people in so I ended up doing several things I don’t normally do in my show. I got a little goofy at one point. Probably because I was so exhausted from the heat and the long weekend, but at one point I looked up and I had a full audience so I moved into my regular show. I ended up cutting a couple of things because I felt like I was running long but nobody but me noticed. I also came up with a new line for Steve that he’d never heard before that he started using in his next show.
Unrelated to the shows, I picked up a special order from Native Earth that I ordered in Colorado when I was there a couple of months ago. They are even better looking than i had pictured in my head (green and purple with some white, red and teal thrown in for good measure). I’ll post pics when I get home later. I’ve needed better footwear for faires for several years now and my wife talked me into making the order, and I’m glad now I did.