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.
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 miscommunication 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 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 affixed 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.