Magician Kevin Spencer doesn’t want you to go watch a magic show. No, he doesn’t want anybody to sit through the same old rabbit-from-a-hat routine — the familiar, humdrum hocus-pocus.
What he does want to do is entertain you. He wants to broaden your expectations of what a show involving illusion can entail, eschewing the bland for the bewildering.
“All of us have that Uncle Fred type relative who can whip out a deck of cards and do tricks,” Spencer says. “What I want to do is come up with something different than that. We’ve taken all of the great elements of Broadway, we’ve wrapped those things around some pretty amazing illusions, and combined it with the high-energy concept of a rock concert. We try not to even call ourselves a magic show. We call ourselves a theatrical production of grand illusion.”
Spencer and his wife, Cindy make up the act Spencers: Theatre of Illusion, performing Thursday at Kansas University’s Lied Center.
Influenced by magicians Harry Houdini and Doug Henning, Spencer says one hallmark of his show is light. Spencer says this adds to the power of the show, as illusions performed on a shadowy stage can more easily be disbelieved.
“Magic isn’t something you come in and you sit down and you watch,” he says. “What we want to do is create an intellectual and emotional experience. Take them on a journey they won’t get anywhere else.”
Spencers: Theatre of Illusion
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Kansas University Lied Center
Cost: $28/$24 for adults, $10 for students
Purchase: 864-2787, www.liedcenter.ku.edu
• The Spencers will also visit the Autism Society of Lawrence, the Boys and Girls Club, Pioneer Ridge Retirement Community and Lawrence Presbyterian Manor as part of their educational outreach.
Karen Christilles, associate director of the Lied Center, says beyond Thursday’s event, the Spencers will spend time with multiple area organizations, assisting both children and elderly adults. Groups include the Autism Society of Lawrence, the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, Pioneer Ridge Retirement Community and Lawrence Presbyterian Manor.
“I’m very happy to have Kevin in our community,” she says, “not only because they’re fabulous with their craft. They have a big, spectacle-type of magic in their show, it’s high drama and music with lights and sound. Beyond the performance and the stage, he has a very personal mission with magic as a healing art. He’s working with people who have sustained brain injuries through an accident or people with brain injuries as part of a genetic disease.”
Christilles says the Spencers’ show works at the Lied Center on multiple levels, as it both aids the community and adds diversity to the season’s calender of events.
“I think this is an opportunity to see something at the Lied Center that we haven’t normally explored before,” she says. “And the outreach is important — to be able to make these artists have a real effect on our home community, not only to provide entertainment.”
Anthea Scouffas, director of education at the Lied Center, agrees, saying the arts can often have a healing power that goes beyond other forms of therapy.
“The way we explore the arts with kids and adults, it’s not only art is important for art’s sake, but art can be an amazing stage to explore other issues. It really provides opportunity and a safe place for people to explore different themes.”
Scouffas says Kevin Spencer’s techniques work with both kids with attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities and autism and older adults with mental or physical therapy issues.
“He’s developed a couple of different programs working around children that might have learning disabilities,” she says. “He also works with people who have brain injuries or older people who have issues like with arthritis. He uses magic to extend the therapy for kids and adults.”
Spencer says he got involved with outreach years ago after an automobile accident left him in an intensive care wing of a hospital with closed brain and lower spinal cord injuries.
“The doctors told me I might never perform again,” he says. “So I spent the next year in physical and occupational therapy. After a year, I realized how incredibly boring long-term therapy is. So I found 50 magic tricks we could teach patients, all with a specific therapeutic goal. It’s things they can do at home, as well as in the hospital, and it’s fun — that’s the basic part of it.”
Spencer is excited about his upcoming time in Lawrence, both on the stage and when he’ll be helping others.
“It’s a pretty cool thing,” he says. “I have the greatest job in the world. Not only do I get to play with magic tricks, but I get to sit down and work with some amazing people, everywhere I go.”