Monday, October 28, 2013
We are back in Valencia after our weekend in Cuenca. We attended the VIII Encuentro de Magos Infantiles where I learned some valuable lessons. Our journey started on Friday afternoon with a quick fifty-minute trip on the AVE and we were back home at 6:00 PM on Sunday.
We stayed at what was originally a convent – El Hotel Convento del Giraldo – and, as one might expect, all of the rooms had modern trappings. Our room was on the fourth floor and it had a single window that was so high up on the wall that one had to use a stepladder to reach the chain that lowered the window shade. It wasn’t this one that needed the ladder, but rather the other one. We unpacked and then made our way to the Teatro Auditorio de Cuenca where all events and shows took place. Our hotel was located in the old quarter of the city and it took us quite a while to navigate the many steps that led to the theater. We later discovered that there was an easier way to get there that was also more scenic.
After receiving our credentials we made our way to the first lecture, which was participative in nature. Everyone was asked to think about three positive things and three negative things about one of their last performances. We then broke into small groups and discussed what we had written. The rather large auditorium really did not lend itself to this task. There was no way to comfortably sit in a small group and have the discussion. As Susan observed, it also would have been better if our leader had changed the instructions to the following:
Take a few minutes to think about three positive things about your last performance and three things that could have been improved. When you have done that, form a group of five with four other participants. Each group should appoint a timekeeper and a secretary. Everyone will have three minutes to share with the group the plus and minus points of his last performance. The timekeeper will notify the speaker when his three minutes are up. The secretary will note the issues that need improvement. When everyone has had a chance to participate, the secretary will read off the list of elements that need improvement. Members of the group will brainstorm possible solutions to as many issues on the list as time permits. When the moderator calls time, the secretary of each group will report out to the other groups the essence of their discussion and the possible solutions that have been suggested.
Our group had mixed results because some spoke more than others and some were off topic. Nonetheless, I did pick up a couple of pointers. Next came the least valuable lecture of the weekend. It was essentially a dealer’s show in which the “lecturer” demonstrated all the things he had for sale at his booth. Ironically, of all the items demonstrated, none were usable in a performance for children.
When the lectures were over we all made our way to the center of town for dinner at the Hotel Alfonso VIII. It was a typical hotel banquet meal and the good news is that was one of the three meals that were included in the registration fee of 125 Euros. Dinner ended around midnight and Susan and I took a cab back to our hotel.
Saturday morning I headed back to the convention and Susan used her time to photograph the enchanted city of Cuenca and its hanging houses – houses that are built into the cliffs that surround the city.
My first session on Saturday was an opportunity for several of us to share ideas or experiences from our performances for children. Six of us did a presentation. I kicked things off with a demonstration of the sign that I use to generate a letter-by-letter cheer form the audience of the word MAGIA. I then demonstrated my handling of an Andrew Mayne principle involving the production of items from a seemingly empty paper bag. Several participants spoke of the healing power of magic and several others shared effects that they use in their performance. All in all, it was a very worthwhile session.
I skipped the next session so that I could nose around in the dealers’ room. I did pick up a couple of things, most of which will be used in my kids’ show and some of which I can use for a more general audience. I was pleased that I kept my purchases under 100 Euros.
Susan showed up at 2:00 when our good friends Antonio and Carmen and Ramón and Juan Diego were ready to head out for lunch. The cafes and restaurants were quite full, but we ended up at a small bar that is reputed to have the best tapas in town. We ordered seven or eight different dishes and we all shared our cholesterol fiesta.
At 6:00 PM Susan and I attended what was the most valuable of all the sessions. It dealt with the use of magic to teach a variety of concepts. The presenter, Xuxo, has many years of experience both as a teacher of little ones and as a magician. Many valuable ideas were put forth and many of those assembled bought his book.
At 7:30 we made our way to the theater for the evening gala. It was a chance for us to see our friend, Ramón, perform and, for selfish reasons, his was the performance that I enjoyed most. After the show all participants headed for dinner at the hotel.
Sunday’s gala was at noon and the theater was almost full. The two performers I enjoyed most were Las niñas del mago and Cliff. It was refreshing to see female performers in a field dominated by men. Their number was very fanciful and captured the attention of all the youngsters in the audience. Cliff is a transplanted Brit was has spent the last 21 years in Spain. His turn was absolutely hilarious and once again demonstrated by how much magical entertainment can be generate by the use of only a few props. His interaction with his young volunteer was priceless. He played off of her quite well and in no way embarrassed her. I learned a great deal from his performance in terms of audience management and in terms on focusing on what the goal of your performance is…entertainment.
Susan and I skipped the official luncheon and instead headed for downtown and found a café that had an empty table. We ordered a salad, some potatoes and a few shrimp and that was our lunch. We then found a cab, returned to the hotel to pick up our suitcases and then it was off to the train station. The AVE arrived at 4:30 as scheduled and three minutes later we were on our way back to Valencia.