Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to the Magic Drawing Board

A little over 3 years ago, I received a Magic Drawing Board for Christmas  This is a ventriloquist prop made by the "Axtell Expressions" puppet company. It's a 10"X12" grid lined dry erase board that's rigged to make anything you draw on it work as a vent puppet.

I was really excited to have it at first. I even used it in performances at the local library and a day care. But an impressive presentation with the magic drawing board required at least the ability to draw. You needed to be able to create characters that looked believable. As an artist I'm well below average so I didnt' feel very good about the level of the presentation. So I stopped using it.

But with the change in my work schedule a couple of months ago came the decision that it's  time, once again, to start breathing some life back into my ventriloquist ministry. I made some organizational and logistical changes. I started performing at church again, as well as some volunteer performances at some local nursing homes.

While I was excited about adding a lion puppet to my company of partners. I also realized that there are some puppets that were already part of my troupe, that I'd not used effectively. The Magic Drawing Board is one of them. I decided that it was time to literally go "back to the drawing board".

Of course I couldn't deny the fact that I still couldn't draw free hand the way I wanted.  So I decided to take another path I turned to the Internet. I logged onto You Tube and found videos of ventriloquists using the Magic Drawing Board and watched them.  

The jokes and ventriloquism may not have been the best but the faces they drew gave me a very good reference point for starting again.

Below you'll see my version of "The Governator".  I plan on using him to do some jokes using my best "Arnold" voice. With the real life version's recent and very public "fall from grace" there's more than enough material to draw (no pun intended) from.

I have other faces I'm working on learning to draw as well. While I admit I am initially getting the look of these characters from someone else my lack of talent makes them different. If nothing else they don't have the sharpness and clarity a skilled artist can bring to the table (or is that the board?).

I'm very optimistic that after a few years of not knowing what to do with this very effective ventriloquist prop I have finally come up with a way to make it an impressive and funny part of my act and ministry.

I've decided that I need to my own agent. I need to continuously look for events and venues where I can perform. I must also convince the people in charge of them that my act is just what they need. I vow to look for any and all performance opportunities. That's the only way I'm going to stay sharp and improve as a "vent".
As I alluded to earlier I'm currently in a period of growth and expansion with my ventriloquism. The introduction of the character of Awesome Archibald Jones  (see July 17 post ), and the improvement in the quality of characters on the Magic Drawing Board are among the first steps. I've also invested in a small portable PA system to use in small venues and for "walk around" performances.

I'm also planning the "on stage" debut of my new lion puppet and additional outreach to local churches, daycare centers and nursing homes in the fall. My passion for ventriloquism has been rekindled. I'm excited and anxious to see where things go from here.

I'll do my best  to keep you up to date.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Trip To Santa Claus Is No Holiday

It's been a busy couple of weeks but things have finally settled down here in my little corner of the world. Over the next couple of posts I'll be playing "catch up" on what's happened the last half of July.                                                                                

On Monday July 18 I took a solo trip to the amusement/water park, Holiday World and Splashin Safari in Santa Claus Indiana. I've wanted to go to this park for a couple of years. The main reason for wanting to go was because of its 3 highly rated, world famous wooden roller coasters: The Raven, The Legend, and the Voyage.

The drive took about an hour and 45 minutes with most of it on the Natcher Parkway which I picked up just south of Bowling Green and stayed on until Owensboro. Over the years many people have told me that Holiday World is "in the middle of nowhere". They were right. After I left the the Natcher I drove 16 miles on Rt 231 North, and then turned onto State Road 162. The area was so rural that I thought I'd taken the wrong road. But then right in the "middle of nowhere" was the park.

I spent the first half of my day in the water park. Trying to beat the crowds I immediately headed toward the back of the area toward the "Wildebeest". It's the world's #1 ranked water  coaster.  

When I got there I realized I hadn't beaten the crowd. After waiting in the queue full of strangers under a very hot sun for 45 minutes for this ride I discovered the "single rider" line. I climbed through the queue railings into this special line. 

Before I knew it I was in the raft heading up the first hill. The Wildebeest was unlike any other water ride I'd ever been on. It was fast, wet and exhilarating. After the ride ended I immediately got back in line again and was back in a raft within the space of 10 minutes.

One of the best things about both parks was free soda and soft drinks. On such a hot day (the temperature was in the 90's by mid afternoon) I made sure I kept drinking all the while I was there. This perk sets Holiday World apart from every other amusement park I've ever been to. I really like being able to get free drinks any time I wanted them. I usually filled up two 8oz. cups every time I drank.

After getting my fill of water slides (this was mostly because I was no longer willing to wait in line for them), floating around a pair of "lazy rivers" and getting pushed around by waves in the two wave pools for about 4 hours, I got changed and headed toward the amusement park.

Holiday World is divided up into several areas celebrating specific holidays: Christmas, Halloween, July 4th, and Thanksgiving.

Although I rode other rides like the swings and bumper cars; I was on a mission to ride all 3 wooden roller coasters.

Two of them (The Legend and The Raven) are in the Halloween section of the park. I rode these before I had my dinner at Kringle's Kafe in Christmas land. The Voyage was my last ride of the night.

Before I tell you about my coaster experiences let me tell you that just like most amusement parks I've been to in my life this one is build on a hill. Except for the Christmas section which you walk into after going through the front gate, you have to walk up or down hill to get to any "land". 

Although I was looking forward to riding it, the first coaster, The Legend, was not much fun. But it was the only one I rode twice. The first time I was in the 4th car from the front and the 2nd time I was in the front seat. While the second time was a bit better than the first it was anything but fun. The ride threw me from side to side, along with lifting me out of then throwing me back in the seat.  Of course there were seat belts and lap bars to keep you restrained (all 3 coasters had these). But I still got "thrown around". 

The Raven was not much better. As a matter of fact it was just as bad. After riding The Raven I came to the conclusion that at my age my body and it's joints no longer have the "flexibility" needed nor the ability to absorb shock  that's necessary to enjoy riding these type of coasters.

As I ate my dinner and then rode other less violent rides I contemplated the possibility that I maybe too old to ride wooden roller coasters anymore.

After going on all the rides I wanted to go on in the July 4th section of the park I headed for the last of the "big 3" coasters, the Voyage. This would be the last chance for Holiday World to change my mind about never riding a vintage wooden roller coaster again.

As I headed back downhill toward the Thanksgiving section of the park, I watched as the Voyage took its riders to the top of it's hills and over it's track. It seemed like quite a long ride. Occasionally I would hear screams or see the train streak by as it sped it's way through the labyrinth of wood and track.

The wait in the queue wasn't long at all. I was in my seat in about 10 minutes after getting in line. I sat down and buckled my seat belt.  Now that I don't have to worry about being able to do this I try never take it for granted. I rode by myself. I don't remember which seat. But that doesn't matter because I have a feeling it wouldn't have mattered. The ride was a case of saving the worst for last.

The ride began as did the other 2 coasters with a climb to the top of a steep hill, a small drop and then "the big one". The ride was 2 minutes of being thrown around in a violent and painful manner. I was thrown against the back of my seat so hard that it hurt my back. It was the worst roller coaster experience of my life.

When I went into the gift shop afterward to buy a souvenir t-shirt, I asked the girl at the counter if the park had a lost and found department. When she asked "why" I told her that I needed to see if I could get my spine back.

It might be considered #1 in the country but the Voyage convinced me that I never need to ride any of Holiday World's 3 wooden coasters again. It was a painful and unpleasant experience. After I bought my shirt I knew it was time to head home. The picture at the top of this post is my last view of the Voyage's first hill. That's the only way I ever want to see that hill again; with my feet solidly on the ground.

The last thing I did before I left the park was have someone take my picture with the park's main icon, Santa Claus. Although it's only a statue (I saw no costumed characters walking around at any time during my visit) it's proof that I was there. I guess it's the equivalent to getting your picture taken in front of "Partners" statue at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

So there you have my day at Holiday World. It's a very nice little park and a wonderful place for families with children, especially young ones. But for anyone over the age of 40 let me send out a warning. If you want to come to the realization that you're not as young as you used to be the park's 3 wooden coasters are more than willing to send you that message by throwing every which way but loose. That should convince you.

So if you love amusement parks Holiday World is a lot of fun. The water park was a great time as well. It's very clean, the food prices aren't overly expensive and the free soft drinks are a great amenity. Just make sure that you're more than just young at heart.