Faire season is upon us. Next weekend we begin travelling down to OKRF to work for T’ger Toggs. My wife works for him at KCRF, and we go down and sell a ton of clothes for him in the spring. We’ve had a few minor changes in our schedule due to other festivals and unmovable events. Of the six weeks that OKRF runs I will be down there three and my wife will be there five.
One of those events is the graduation of our daughter, also known as Claire Up There, from college. She will graduate with a Major in Spanish language and a Minor in Music. She is driven to exceed expectations and she certainly did. Next fall she will begin an ASL program and is looking to work as a translator in the future.
The other events are things I’ve done in the past and with COVID infections on the decline events are really ramping up. I’ll be back at the Renaissance Festival of Nebraska for one weekend in May (May 7-8), and I will be returning once again to the Great Bend June Jaunt event the first Saturday of June (June 4th).
Since Christmas, I’ve been working on organizing my magic library. I had run out of space on my previous bookshelves so I went out and bought a used set of three matching bookshelves. I’ve been working recently on cataloging the books in a format I can access online when I’m away from my office. This will be especially helpful when I’m at an event looking to buy books to make sure I’m not duplicating anything.
Anyway, I’ll see you around. Hope you enjoy the show.
The final weekend of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival was ahead. Anyway, renfest ended with more of a whimper than a roar. At least to me. There were no grand celebratory moments, nothing really exciting happened, it just happened. Steve said he really appreciated all the extra work I had done to get things ready for the year. We talked about a few things concerning the structure of the Tower. It’s fallen into disrepair because of the lack of maintenance done by KCRF. This is now not a surprise since we found out they thought the Tower belonged to us. We will probably spend some time and money next summer to remodel at least part of the Tower stage (the extra bit on the side) for storage. Next year will be his 40th year so he wants to do something big. I already emptied all of my gear out of the tower since I had a gig the following weekend (see below) so the only thing left is to take down the follies and the canvas over the stage.
Not quite Medieval Times…
We (Pastmagic Productions) were contacted several weeks prior about doing a Mother/Son Medieval faire like event in Columbia, MO. After my wife negotiated with me, we accepted. There were some changes along the way like they wanted me to do three 15 minute shows per session as opposed to my 45 minute show. Three sessions over a day and a half. We arrived Friday evening and it was an “event”. Held at the Boone County Fairgrounds Building, the planner had gone all out creating the atmosphere of a great hall in a castle. As the patrons entered the front doors they walked in to a smallish foyer made to look like the portcullis and drawbridge into the castle. Each child was given a gold bejeweled goblet filled with a drink. At first we thought it might be tea, but never found out what it actually was. It might have been Kool-Aid or Gatorade based on the color. Beyond that was a “lounge” area, with circular velvet couches and tables set up. This was also where the main stage with a gold throne was. This was also the stage for the two variety acts, myself and the sword swallower. When we weren’t on stage it was also a photo op.
To one side of this area was the feast area. Two long buffet tables with all sorts of kid friendly food down the center and tables with red satin tablecloths and gold candelabras on either side. At that end of the building was also a “snack” table filled with pre-packaged goodies like fruit and vegetable sticks, brownies, fruit snacks, etc. To the left was the “bar”. Water, soda, juice were all available. To the right of the feast area they had a photographer doing fun green-screen photos of anybody that wanted them. they even brought a green cloak so that, if someone wanted, they could do a disembodied head shot. On the other side of the “lounge” was the dance floor with DJ playing all sorts of modern dance music. A little disconcerting after coming from KCRF for seven weekends, but whatever. They also had stations for the kids to make stuff like a catapult out of rubber bands and craft sticks, writing a scroll, or decorating a crown. Then they had Skee-ball machines, foosball, and a bar shuffleboard table. Outside, they had several vendors with kettle corn and funnel cakes. There was also an outside lounge area with firepits and couches as well as inflatables for the kids to play in. There were also pony rides and suction cup archery. They even had a joust. Joust Revolution from Des Moines was there in the small arena and did one joust per session. We talked to them for a bit and they are down to earth people. The lead jouster is about our age and talked how, for some kids, this will be their only experience of this kind and he wants to instill in them honor and a sense of right over wrong. he talked about how their “bad” guy in the show isn’t really bad he just bends the rules in his favor. Good guy.
I learned a few things about my show from this event, the biggest is that I have routines that are way longer than I thought they were. I’ll work on tightening them up over the off season and hopefully I’ll actually script my show (or at lest all the routines) so I know what can go where.
And here we are…
The following weekend (Halloween weekend), we were back at the festival to take down the canvas and the shades. We talked again about repairs and updates we’d like to do, but not sure when or if they will actually get done. Again Steve thanked me for doing so much to get everything ready this year and we parted ways.
My wife and I took a small vacation in November and then Christmas prep began soon after. I had a good friend stop by the house and gift me several boxes of magic books and a couple of collectable magic posters. I’m already short on shelf space so it looks like I’m going to be doing some rearranging soon so everything has it’s place.
So as Christmas fast approaches and New Years is just around the bend, I want to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope next year finds you healthy and better off then you were this year. May COVID finally be controlled so that performers like myself can get out there, without worry, and bring a little joy into our audience’s lives.
Since my last post in April things have been improving. In May my wife and I spent 5 weekends in Muskogee at the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival working for T’ger Toggs, a clothing retailer based out of Kansas City. It was very busy and people seemed enthusiastic about events opening back up. It started out with a mask mandate for participants unless you could verify your vaccine status and a mask recommendation to patrons. By the end of the run, the city of Muskogee’s mask mandate had expired so there were very few people wearing masks.
T’ger was very happy with how Muskogee turned out for him, even if he did have to work long hours during the week to rebuild his inventory.
June meant missing the last weekend of the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival and heading to Great Bend for the June Jaunt, an event held the first weekend of June in several small town along K-96. There were still concerns about social distancing and mask wearing which meant there were fewer vendors than normal. The layout this year, to me anyway, was all wrong. They had me on a temporary stage next to the courthouse where there was no shade. I ended up doing 2 of my three shows there and the final show of the day in front of my wife’s face painting tent (doodlefaceskc) in the shade. That last show ended up being the best show of the day and the small audience seemed to like it.
The rest of June was pretty quiet. I’ve been working on some stuff in my new Magic Room (Man Cave), but nothing that important. In July we made the annual trip up to the family cabin in Colorado and spent a day at the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur, CO about 45 minutes south of Denver. For us it was mostly a site seeing adventure. We’ve been doing Renfests for so long there isn’t much that is “new” to us. We did run into a vendor or two that we knew from Kansas City but other than watching a couple of shows it wasn’t that exciting. I don’t want to say that they don’t have a street cast, but the characters they do have are so spread out that they might as well not have anybody.
Late August I travelled to Las Vegas for the Magic Collectors Expo. Three days of informative lectures and a dealer room of all sorts of desires. I bought many books and a few poster recreations. The lectures covered all sorts of topics from newly discovered diaries of a young Alexander (before he knew) to the real history of Sawing a woman in half to feather flowers and quick change through history. The best part was the tour through The International Museum and Library of Conjuring Arts, David Copperfield’s private collection.
It’s hard to describe how breath-taking it truly was to walk through this treasure trove of magic history. Things I had only ever just read about I saw up close, props from touring shows of the late 1800’s – early 1900’s, costumes worn by famous magicians or their assistants, a recreation of Tannen’s magic shop in New York just like David remembered it. Amazing! I could have spent hours looking and reading all the tags but since there were so many of us we were guided through on a 90 minute tour in groups of 15. Still my mind longs to go back.
Kansas City Renaissance Festival
As we closed in on opening weekend, I spent a week and a half at the festival grounds getting the Tower ready. Steve usually helps but he was so overwhelmed with his other job that he didn’t have time to help. I made repairs and improvements to the tarp that covers the stage. Got everything hung and taut and it looks better than it has in years. Next year we will (I will) alter the tarp further so that it doesn’t sag in the middle like it does now.
Early in the run, one of the vendors near us was on site in the middle of the week when they heard management talking about the recent building inspections done by the city of Bonner Springs. Apparently ownership/management thought the tower belonged to us and wasn’t going to do any repairs to the structure. There are some cosmetic parts at the top of the tower that are rotting and falling off and were sited in the inspection and they wanted to know why it was on their report. I guess they know now.
Attendance has been down, or at least it feels like it. It’s definitely not the 15-17K average through the gate we used to get just a few years ago and nowhere close to the glory days of 28K+ that made it feel like you were packed tight as you walked through the lanes. Because of where we are on the festival grounds there has to be a certain number of people through the gate to “push” the crowd our direction. I mean I’m not complaining. The people that have come out have been great and Steve and I appreciate them sitting through our shows and leaving a little something in the basket before they leave.
We did have a scare at the tower. Steve got COVID so I immediately scheduled a test for myself. I was negative but Steve ended up missing a weekend so management brought in another magician from the St Louis area. He was definitely not Steve. I won’t mention his name here, but he was most definitely a kids show magician. The following weekend I learned that he was back on a different stage covering for another act that had to cancel due to COVID.
COVID is no joke. Mask up, get the inoculation, keep the people around you safe.
One weekend to go until we pack it all up for another year.
The weekend immediately following Renfest I travel to Columbia, MO to do several 15 minute shows over two days. It’s supposed to be Renaissance themed so it shouldn’t be a tough gig but 15 minutes for me is typically just the warm up.
Since my last update in January, We’ve completed construction on my room. We haven’t come up with any clever name for it, it’s just my room or the magic room.
Here is the video I uploaded to Facebook a few weeks ago:
I got both my shots of the Pfizer vaccine and full efficacy will be May 8th. I’m an introvert and even I am looking forward to getting to be around people again.
Faires, Festivals, etc.
Made a brief trip to Central Missouri Renaissance Festival this past weekend. It was good to see many faces I haven’t had in person contact with for more than a year. I talked with the Entertainment Director there, and talks are underway to bring me to the event, maybe this fall after Kansas City (depends on timing), but definitely next spring. I feel I’m a good fit for the event and will bring some new energy.
One thing I did notice is that all acts had QR codes printed and placed near the front of their stages for touchless tipping. I’ll need to do that for Kansas City this fall.
I performed in March for the Kansas City Magic Showcase’s online show. It was a little rough, I admit, but I was working in a brand new space and had never worked for a camera before. Plus having no audience to work with it made things, for me anyway, more like demonstrating and not performing. I did an effect with new script, an old trick that always plays well (in person at least), an effect I tried at Renfest a couple of years back that I ended up dropping because it needed more work, and a completely new effect with mind reading. I went back and re-watched and there are certainly things I’ll do differently if the opportunity arises again.
My first live in person show this year will be at the June Jaunt in Great Bend, Kansas June 5th. I am excited and a little nervous since it’s been well over six months since my last in person performance. I know it will work out just fine, they love me down there. I am working on some new things to present and some old things in new ways.
I had thought I’d be up in Nebraska in May but because of a communication SNAFU on his end the entertainment director/owner didn’t think I was interested. He put me on the list for next year so we’ll see what happens.
I was asked this weekend if I thought Kansas City Renaissance Festival was going to happen this fall. I told him, and I believe this, that there is a very slim chance it wouldn’t happen. As vaccinations increase and new infections decrease in the area it will happen. It may look a bit different than previous years. Since it doesn’t start until September, it’s hard to say, but it may have social distancing rules, attendance caps, temperature checks at the entry points. Again, at that point it will be the “normal” we’ve all lived with for the last year and as things return to a new normal we will all adjust accordingly.
This last year has been hard for many of us that make a living being in front of people. Some will undoubtedly jump in with both feet the first chance they get. Some of us, like me, want to take it slow so that all precautions are taken to limit the spread of COVID and ensure the safety of our audiences.
I cannot wait to hear those words again…”Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Marvelous Matt!!!”
I realized it’s been a little over a month since my last post. I don’t really have much of an update. Work on my room continues slowly and we hope to have it finalized around the first part of February. It will be good to have a “place” in our home for my things. It will also be a place I can escape to when I need to work on something without the distractions the living room provides. I’ll also be setting it up as a virtual studio so I can start doing some magic online. Speaking of…
I was asked to perform for a virtual show for our local magic club but with construction dragging on and my stuff packed away I told them I wouldn’t be ready in time; maybe next month. I miss being able to perform. My last opportunity was in September when we filmed the Jolly Rogers show which was broadcast on Youtube in October. I posted about it last month.
I can’t wait for things to open back up and get closer to normal now that a vaccine is available. My wife already got her first dose because she’s on our local city council (continuation of government) but because I’m not in one of the “at risk” groups I probably won’t be eligible until late Spring/early Summer. Still I encourage everybody to follow health guidelines: wear a mask, stay socially distanced, wash your hands. Before long it will be over and we can get back to what is important to us.
Contacts are being made for the upcoming year. Spring shows are iffy because of the slow vaccine rollout, Summer shows are better but not guaranteed, Fall shows like KCRF will probably happen. I’ve already been told by one owner/operator in Iowa that even though we were good for them last year his regular people are coming back so they don’t need us. However, the show at the Bellevue Berry Farm outside Omaha is looking forward to having me back assuming they can open safely this year. I’ll keep you updated when I get dates secured.
There you have it, the post telling you all about the absolutely nothing going on in my life right now.
See only a month since my last post; I’m getting better at this.
We started construction on my workspace at home. Since we’ve moved into this house 16 years ago I haven’t really had a space to call my own. All my magic props and materials are in one corner of the basement which I set up as my “space” when we moved in. That space has never been conducive to rehearsal or actual use, just mostly storage. Not to say it’s not workable but with no walls I really had no way to set up the space to be functional.
So starting the second week of November we began construction. With the help of friends we’re doing it ourselves to save money. There have been some mistakes made, but nothing that couldn’t be corrected. The walls and electrical are in and this week we’re finishing up mudding the drywall so I can start on painting and getting the drop ceiling installed. Once that’s done I’ll call somebody to do carpet and I’ll finish out the room by installing trim and doors. Okay, after checking, it looks like I need to trim first and then do carpet. Whatever, I’m getting to the point I just want it done.
Aside from the construction, not much has been going on the last month. I’ve been working on setting up the two websites for our other ventures: Claire Up There and Doodle Faces KC. The Doodle Faces site at least has a home page. Claire Up There just has a landing page and nothing else. I’ll get them done, but at this point it’s not a priority.
So there you have it. If I don’t have the opportunity to get back here before next month I want everyone of you to know I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May next year be easier than this one was. I’ll see you soon.
It’s been over a year since I last posted anything. I didn’t intend for it to take this long. Usually I post something around Christmas and that didn’t happen. Then I usually realize what happened and update in the spring, which, if you’ve been paying attention is when all the Covid-19 shutdowns happened.
Going back to the end of KCRF 2019, lets just say it happened. Last time I posted anything here we were three weeks in to the 2019 season. I went back to look at some of my Facebook posts from that time and it looks like we had a few really good weekends as far as attendance is concerned, when it wasn’t raining.
After KCRF 2019 was over we went back to normal life and began prep for the 2020 season. Little did we know…
Halloween came and went and before I knew it I was back on stage at the Kick Comedy Club for the monthly Kansas City Magic Showcase in November.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years came and went. The Kansas City Chiefs were on fire thanks to young quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. I did a birthday party during the playoffs and had to wait until the game was over to start the show. Then the Kansas City Chiefs went to the Super Bowl and won. The city turned red and we were on top of the world.
Oh how times change..
Then in March, as we’re getting ready for our event schedule to start filling up, Covid-19 locked everything down. It was a scary time for many in the Kansas City magic community. Dennis Wilson, a magician and former educator was the second person to die from Covid-19 in Johnson County, Kansas. Then two more members of our local magic club got sick and had to isolate. The Kansas City magic community is a tight knit group and we all know each other. Covid-19 shook us all.
Initially we all believed it would be over in a month or so. March events like the Snake Saturday Parade in North Kansas City and then the St. Patrick’s Day Parade cancelled and we were directed to stay home except for essential travel like groceries or work (but only if you couldn’t work from home).
April came around and everybody started to figure out Covid-19 was going to be around a lot longer than thought. Festivals across the country began closing or delaying opening because of the virus. Some tried delaying but couldn’t make it safe enough and ended up closing for the year.
In July we went to the cabin in the mountains with friends (who were also following a strict no contact plan) to escape the normal world for a while. No cell phone service, no electricity, no running water, a paradise in the wild. It was good to forget about our troubles even for a week.
Keep safe and wear a mask!
I finally had a show in August, The Des Moines Renaissance Faire. It was the first time I’d worked for this festival owner in over a decade and it worked out well. It was on a new site and they spaced all the vendors out so that there was at least 20′ between each of them. My wife painted faces, my daughter walked stilts and I did my show. I wore a mask any time I was going to have a volunteer on stage with me. I had hand sanitizer ready. I was really trying to keep everybody safe. It was hot. Really hot, but the organizers made sure we had access to cold water on site and were constantly checking on everyone to make sure we didn’t need anything.
We arrived home to the announcement that KCRF 2020 was postponed two weeks. They were trying to make something workable and acceptable to the county health inspector. Then, just before Labor Day weekend, it was announced that KCRF was cancelled for the 2020 season. To be honest, I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry any more about keeping myself, my audience safe, and my family safe.
While we were in Des Moines I got a message from one of the Jolly Rogers about a project they wanted to put together and wanted to know if I’d participate. Of course I said yes. Their plan was to release a new show every day of what would have been KCRF on the Jolly Rogers Youtube channel and were putting together a showcase of KCRF acts that would premier on the last day. So seven acts got together (socially distanced) and recorded a show of epic proportions and here it is.
What was nice about this show was that it allowed us to see each others acts, which doesn’t normally happen during the regular season, and to receive tips/donations from the viewers. If you want to send a tip you can do that here. Nudge, nudge, I’m the fourth act.
That should do it for the year in review. I’m hoping now that I’ve moved to a new hosting company I’ll be able to keep the site(s) updated and the blog posts coming.
The first weekend of May was spent at Renaissance Festival of Nebraska at Bellevue Berry Farm outside Omaha, NE. Because of all the flooding along I-29 this year we had to take a longer route up US 75 from Topeka. It’s two lanes most of the way and I do not recommend it unless you have no other choice. This was the second year I was at this event and I had requested being somewhere other than the children’s area all day. I was not disappointed, four shows per day each at a different stage. Since last year I had figured out how to minimize my props so we didn’t need the wagon, instead relying on a foot locker and a fold-able two wheeler. The shows seemed to go over pretty well and management seemed pleased with the way everything went.
After that, we were back in Oklahoma for the next three weekends at the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival working for T’ger Toggs. There was one weekend that a strong storm rolled through overnight. Hearing tornado sirens and looking outside to see it eerily quiet is not something you want waking you up at 3am. Turns out that storm had spawned tornadoes to the south of town. It missed largely populated areas but we heard later about several homes that had been damaged.
We returned to Great Bend the first weekend of June. This little one day event is a great local festival and I am always grateful that they ask me back year after year. We rented a trailer this year so I could bring the Acupuncture illusion with me as well as all the other equipment this family of performers requires. I only performed the Acupuncture once due to technical difficulties. Trying to fix what was wrong in the blazing sun wasn’t working so I ended up cutting it from the rest of my shows for the day. My wife painted faces all day and was joined by our daughter in the afternoon. Also longtime friend Beth Byrd performed throughout the day handing out tickets to patrons for silly things like being “too darn cute” and did a show followed by a workshop on miming for all the kids. Always a good time.
Spent some time in the mountains of Colorado relaxing with friends and family.
I fixed the problem with the Acupuncture so that shouldn’t be an issue anymore.
Walked on broken glass at Kansas City Magic Showcase with Rod Sipe, again.
Fringe Fest meant performing friends staying with us. Mike and Nancee Micham presented their performance piece “Red Clay Country and White Cloverine Salve” five times during the 14 day run. It’s a rustic story about Nancee’s grandmother and her trip across the dust bowl to a better life in California.
Below you’ll see Mike and Nancee putting their lives in my hands in some dangerous equipment. I can’t say enough about what good friends they’ve become over the years.
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…