2002Aarchive 72Hours. .
Well, this is going to be a rather unique review, since it's being written by one of the convention's co-producers. My co-producer Quinn Pearl and I set out to create a convention that was the kind of convention we as serious mentalists would want to go to, and somehow convinced ourselves that this crazy idea might just be viable. After months of planning, hoping, and doing, 72 Hours happened over a weekend in the beautiful New England town of Portsmouth, NH. Since I am the co-producer, you're probably expecting just some fluff about how great it was, and how you should come next year. To alleviate that, I'll do two things. First, I'll tell you that, for various reasons I won't get into here, it's been decided that 72 Hours was a one-time-only event, so there's no need for a hyped-up sales pitch (although I will note that I am at work on another mentalism convention, more details of which will be announced later in the year). Second, I'll just bite the bullet and tell you about the negatives first.
So, what didn't I like about 72 Hours? The biggest gripe both for myself and for some of the attendees was the location. Quinn and I had our reasons for choosing Portsmouth, but it was a tradeoff. On the one hand, it's a really charming area, with great (and affordable) food, and two beautiful theatres that we were able to hold some of the lectures in (see below for more on that). On the other hand, hotels near downtown are both expensive and very full at the time of year we held the convention, so we ended up having to use a hotel that required driving back and forth to the various convention venues. In addition to the time this took away from other convention events, there were also some interesting experiences with getting poor directions from the hotel causing a caravan of about six cars full of mentalists to drive around in circles through the middle of Portsmouth looking for the right road (I should note, however, that had we had more than the small number of attendees we did, we would have rented vans or a bus for transportation; it happened that with the small number of people we had, it seemed easier to just carpool).
The location also made getting there a bit of a hassle for some attendees; while Portsmouth does have a small airport, most attendees needed to either drive in, take the bus/train in, or fly to Manchester or Boston and be picked up. Next time I do a convention, it'll be closer to an international airport.
Now for the good stuff, of which there was lots. First, there was the intimacy of the event. Including lecturers and staff, there were only about 20 of us, so we all got to know each other fairly quickly. (This of course wasn't a planned thing, but it worked out to our advantage to a certain degree.) Also, because of this, the lecturers really opened up and shared things that they might not have otherwise. Our headliner, Banachek, lectured for four hours, covering things that I don't think he even planned to tip when he started, but once he started talking, it was too late! Rick Maue and Craig Browning also shared their insight into their respective focuses, Rick discussing some thoughts on "Haunted Magick" and on mentalism, while Craig gave a bit of a personal history and discussed the subject of doing readings.
For pretty much every attendee I spoke with, the highlight of the convention was Michael Phillips's lecture/workshop on theatricality and staging in mentalism. Michael is an actor/director who is also somewhat knowlegeable in mentalism, and the advice he shared was incredibly valuable. I know it sounds like sales hype, but for those who were paying attention to Michael, this one workshop was easily worth the entire price of the convention, and then some. And not a trick was taught during it! Michael taught the real work, the things that separate great performers from good performers and good performers from crap.
Other events included a number of informal and formal roundtable discussions on various subjects from impromptu mentalism to the college performing market, and everything in between. Some of these were scheduled events, while others formed of their own accord during group outings to various local restaurants. This was one huge benefit of such an intimate group--rather than splitting up for dinner, almost every night found all the attendees on their way to a huge table at one restaurant or another, where the sharing never stopped. In fact, for those who were paying attention, Banachek nearly tipped more in some of these unofficial gatherings than he did in his lecture!
All in all, I was really happy with most of how the event came out. I definitely learned a lot about what works and what doesn't for a convention, and look forward to future projects that will allow me to continue to share my love of mentalism with others who love it (especially those who really love mentalism...I mean who really, really love it...I mean, not just like it, they LOVE it).
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