Category Archives: General

Things not related to performance or magic. Maybe thoughts on a topic of the day.

T- 6 days and counting

I always want to post something witty or sincere but I tend  to ramble when I’m trying to unload my mind. Next weekend begins my second season as a solo performer at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. This does not come without challenges, but not the kind actually related to performing. Without being too passive-aggressive, lets just say that the coworker at my regular place of employment is not happy that he is working the next seven Saturdays. We typically rotate the Saturday shift because it’s a half day and not typically busy at all.  I mentioned the Renfest a couple of weeks ago and apparently he just isn’t too keen on paying attention to what I say. It’s not like I haven’t been working the festival for the past 24 years or anything. I will admit that the timing of family vacations and stuff didn’t allow me to work the full seven weekends before the festival like I usually do, but that hasn’t been a problem in the past. If this was a one time issue it probably wouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but this is just the latest in a string of incidents where he has literally thrown temper tantrums because I’ve asked for time off. Time off I rightfully have coming to me.  Whatever. I have a few prospects for replacement employment that I’m hoping will come to fruition in the next several weeks. Here’s to changes afoot.

On a different note, Media Party was last weekend. I again performed for a small group that had strayed up the hill from the larger gathering, and they seemed to enjoy what I had to offer. I haven’t really changed much for my show this year, except I now have a few smaller effects to draw people in before moving to the larger effects, and I have a few smaller close-up type things for when the crowds dwindle at the end of the day and we’re working in the audience.

I noticed a large wasp presence on our stage so we’ll need to get that taken care of Saturday morning as well as rearranging the benches so we have a center aisle and relocate a bunch to where they are supposed to be.

Just putting this out there: What one effect or illusion would you like to see at the Renaissance festival?

Where to go?

I went south to visit the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival held at the Castle of Muskogee this past weekend. Although I was not performing at this show it is one that I would like to get into eventually.  Many of the people I talk to say it is a refreshing change to have an owner that actually takes part in his festival; one that is wiling to make changes and improvements midweek if it means a better patron experience.

I will be returning to Oklahoma in two weeks, over the Memorial Day weekend, hopefully with a few illusions to perform in the streets of Castleton. 

The other show I’d like to get into is St. Louis which runs mid-May to early June (four weekends total). It’s been many years since I made the trip to St Louis (probably around 2000 or 2001) and I understand they have been experiencing some growing pains lately. It was also recently announced that the same company that manages the Kansas City Renaissance Festival will be doing the same for St Louis. This is good news for me because it means I can use KCRF to audition for StLRF.

The problem is that these shows overlap, OKRF runs all weekends of May and StLRF runs four weekends starting mid May. Can’t do them both at the same time, so which one would I rather do?

Decisions, decisions…


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!

Don’t dream it’s over…

It’s been about a week since the Kansas City Renaissance Festival finished up it’s season. The last weekend had beautiful weather and according to what I got from the office, record crowds through the gate.

My seven weekends at the Wizards Tower went by too fast. I’ve had several people say that I’ve matured as a performer. My show has passed through the fire and has become better for it. It’s more polished and I think a little more entertaining than it started out. There are elements that have been added, some that have been dropped, but many that just needed a little extra performance time to become gems.

Going back and reading some earlier posts, I was focused on the fear of standing alone on stage. Would the audience accept me? Would they like what I do? Would I be good enough? The answer to all, I’ve found, is yes. It seemed all I really needed was to get out there and be myself. I wasn’t smug, or condescending, I was just me; although I will admit I put on a pretty confident face when I need to.

Will I be back? You bet I will. At least I hope I will be back. According to the area manger my numbers were pretty good and they weren’t getting any complaints, so that works in my favor. Steve told me as far as he’s concerned it’s gonna be the Steve and Matt on the Wizard’s Tower next year.

Weekends Five and Six

It was pointed out to me that I hadn’t posted in over two weeks so here it is, somewhat overdue.

It was almost two weeks ago so lets see what I can remember about the  fifth weekend. Saturday morning was wet and stayed cool but not uncomfortable once the rain moved out. Unfortunately because of the light rain that lasted well into lunch, crowds for the rest of the day were quite a bit smaller than what I had hoped for. This gave Steve an opportunity to play around with something he’s been working on, a vortex cannon. He shot cups off of kids heads all day which was pretty cool until he filled it with smoke from a smoke bomb. Then it was awesome! Watching smoke-rings go out fifteen to twenty feet from the stage and knock a cup off of a persons head was very impressive and everybody that saw it thought it was pretty neat too.

I also unveiled a new dragon at the Wizards Tower. Steve has one he’s been using for years but it’s been rained on, it’s faded, and the head droops, so I made a new one. It looks kind of like the one below, except mine is green and I changed it to say “Estevon”.


Even printing it on poster board, the one drawback is that with all the moisture in the air his head got a little heavy so it ended up drooping by the end of the day. I fixed it the following week so now his head stays upright all the time.

Sunday’s weather was perfect and the day started quick and ended big. Steve and I alternate shows all day and we ended up doing seven shows each that day. I can’t say there were any major problems or issues that came up on Sunday. I will say that the next morning I felt like I’d been run over by a truck.

The sixth weekend also started with a little rain in the early morning hours. Forecasters had predicted lots of wind and rain but the storms in the area didn’t develop much of either. Saturday started cool and stayed that way all day. At one point before my first show I caught myself shivering, so I wrapped up in my jacket until I felt better.  I had several good shows and I was getting huge audiences for the jacket escape although that wasn’t translating to an increased hat. I’m not saying that the hat wasn’t good, but watching people just walk off as I begin my hat pitch really sucks. I’m sure  it’s something that every entertainer has to deal with at some point, I’ve just got to learn to not let it bother me. Of course if it didn’t bother me I wouldn’t have written about it here so I’m not doing so well in the not letting it bother me department. Ha Ha. Other than those minor things the day and the whole weekend went really well. Steve did tell me this weekend that I don’t know how good I really am and that doing these kinds of shows have chewed up some of the best magicians in the city. Adding that very few have what it takes to make it in the faire environment and I should be be proud I haven’t collapsed yet.


I have another post on mentors and what they’ve meant to me in the works, not sure if it will get done before the weekend but I hope to have it up soon.

Here are links to download your own dragon: in RED, BLUE, or GREEN. 

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.

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.