Many conventions are coming up. The World Clown Association Convention is being held in New York City March 14-18. The Clowns of American Convention is being held in Anaheim, CA April 13-17. The Branson Magic Bonanza is being held in Branson, MO April 28-30. Other conventions are scheduled for the summer and fall. The convention experiences are the primary reason for attending, but experiencing the host city is also worthwhile.
You can enhance your experience by doing a little advance study. For example, I am currently reading New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd. This book presents the history of New York in a fun format, the stories of several fictional families through many generations. I have been learning a lot about the city, and about American history, that I didn't know. For example, Wall Street was built just inside the Palisade protecting the northern boundary of the original Dutch settlement. As the city expanded the wall was torn down, but the street retained its name. So, now when I see Wall Street I will be able to visualize the size of the original city.
The COAI convention is on the Disneyland Resort property. There is a lot of information in print on how this resort was designed and built. For example, a book titled The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland explains why the clock entrance to It's A Small World appears to be a thin fašade. A designer working on the model of the attraction was indicating some possible landscaping with model trees. He set some of the trees on the roof of the model were they would be handy as he worked. Walt Disney entered and saw the trees. He realized that putting bushes in planters on top of the ride building would hide its size. People standing in front of the attraction would think they were seeing trees growing just on the other side of the clock. This creates a smaller more intimate feel to the area. It is also an example of creation by "happy accident." This means that instead of planning something on purpose, you recognize the value of something that happened by accident and take advantage of it. The many books about the Disney Imagineers contain lots of information useful to entertainers.
I love physical books, but you can also find information on the internet. For example, BlueSkyBuzz.com is a web site maintained by Disney Imagineering providing information on new and proposed attractions at the California Adventure portion of the Disneyland Resort. Here is an example of something off that site. One of the new attractions is a night time multimedia show titled World of Color. The show incorporates dancing waters. While planning the show, the designers gave choreographer Joshua Horner the attraction's sound track. Joshua and a female partner created a series of dances expressing the emotional content of the music through movement. The designers used the dancer's movements as inspiration for the movement of the water fountains increasing the emotional impact of the show because the movement of the water is not random. It is based on human emotional responses to the music. The water is treated as a character instead of simply as an object. There are two lessons there for entertainers. The first is using dance to inspire the manipulation of props. Watching a show titled The Spirit of the Dance at a theater in Branson, MO was part of the inspiration for my dancing cane routine. The second lesson is gaining increased entertainment value by turning objects into characters. In my Sweeping Up The Spotlight routine the pool of light becomes a mischievous character that I relate to. When Kenny Ahern saw the routine in rehearsal, he suggested adding another moment of interaction between me and the light because we end up being friends.
Some opportunities in convention cities require advance planning. For example, the Brooklyn Public Library has an extensive collection on history of the city that is available for research. Use of the collection is free, but requires making an advance reservation. That way they can set aside the relevant material so it is available for your use when you arrive. I have discovered that they have lots of information on clowns who have performed in town. So before I go to New York I am making arrangements to do some research at the Brooklyn Public Library while I am in town.
What conventions are you planning to attend this year? How can you learn about the host city to increase your enjoyment of your trip? What local resources are available for learning more about entertainment while you are there? What arrangements need to be made in advance to use them?