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  • Writer's pictureJeff Quinn

The (Not So) Great Outdoors!

I've been getting a lot of libraries telling me that they're planning on having their Summer Reading Program activities (including my show) held outdoors this summer. I suspect that it is due to an overabundance of caution in light of COVID. While it is entirely possible for me to do an outdoor show, there are some problems associated with this option that I think you should be aware of.

First of all, there's weather. Specifically rain and heat. This is why I urge libraries to have a backup plan. It doesn't necessarily need to be indoors, either. I've performed in covered pavilions in city parks. If heat is an issue, consider having the show in a shaded area or scheduled earlier in the morning. My show usually runs about 40 minutes and having children in the sun when it's 100 degrees isn't the best idea.

Wind is also a factor. Many of the props I use are very light. In an average show, I use silk scarves several time for various tricks. Even slight breezes can blow them away. Although you don't see it, I DO have them weighted down by something behind my table until I grab them. Also, in doing an outdoor show, I'm afraid it will be impossible for me to use a backdrop. The one I plan on using for the "Reading Safari" show this year is both large and light. Even weighted down, a good breeze would knock it over.

More than likely, I WILL need access to power. I almost always have my trusty sound system with me and I need electricity to power it. If the show is on your library lawn or in a park or at some other outdoor venue, sound doesn't carry as well as it would indoors.

Several years ago, a library had me scheduled for an outdoor Summer Reading Program and they had thoughtfully put up a small canopy for me to perform under. It was about 10 ft by 10 ft. A stiff breeze came up and although it was staked to the ground, tipped the canopy over and blew it into the audience. Fortunately, nobody was injured, but there were quite a few scared children.

I think we can all agree that a show indoors in a temperature-controlled environment is much more preferable. However, if it's necessary to do a show outdoors, it CAN be done, but please realize that some tricks may need to be reworked; I probably won't be able to use the backdrop and the crowd may be a bit uncomfortable.

Still, with all that working against us, I'll still do my best to provide your library and guests with a fantastic Summer Reading Program magic show!

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