By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Kevin and Cindy Spencer have taken a simplified version of their act up the Amazon River to a village of families who have never seen magic. They have performed it in an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. They spent last summer doing magic with children in Africa whose families were wiped out by AIDS.
Today they’ll bring their large-scale stage performance to Memorial Auditorium.
“There is something about the art of illusion that is so universal, so captivating, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are,” said Kevin Spencer in a phone interview last week between shows.
It captivated him when he was 8 years old and his parents, as many do the world over, bought their son a child-size magic kit. Spencer mastered simple tricks, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Kevin and his wife are the largest touring illusion company in the country and perform in metropolitan areas around the world.
“But I grew up in the northwest corner of Indiana, and those are my favorite places to come,” Spencer said. “The rural areas, like Pittsburg. Audiences in towns like that rarely hhave the opportunity to see something that is a grand scale production.”
One thing distinguishes him from other magicians. Early in his career, Spencer was involved in serious car wreck, which resulted in a lower spinal cord injury, a year in physical and occupational therapy. He realized, he said, that such therapy can be incredibly boring and frustrating.
“I went to the head of therapy and asked if we could make it more motivating, more fun. I started exploring lots of simple little magic tricks, teaching them to stroke patients,” he said. “In patients who traditionally takes 24 weeks to reach goals, we started seeing them reach goals in seven, eight or nine weeks.”
He created a program he calls The Healing of Magic, and it’s being used in more than 2,000 facilities in more than 30 countries.
For the past 15 years, he has trained occupational, physical and speech therapists on the use of magic in rehabilitation.
“It’s the first of its kind,” he said. “I also have done spinal cord, head and mental injuries. I’m pretty excited about it.”
He recently completed a nine-week curriculum for special needs students that use simple tricks as a way to help them develop fine and gross motor skills.
“Theses little tricks are also effective in helping them reach some of their educational goals while improving attention, concentration, memory, task-follow through, frustration tolerance and more,” he said.
In each of Pittsburg’s four elementary schools Thursday, Spencer demonstrated his curriculum, called “Hocus Focus,” for classes of special education students and their teachers.
Tonight, the Spencers will perform what they describe as a hip, sophisticated show filled with original magic and illusions.
Want to go?
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium, 503 N. Pine. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 620-231-7827 or online at www.memorialauditorium.org Cost: $15 adults, $10 children, $8 balcony