The Joanie Spina Workshops
Took place in two sessions, both were different and both were such revelations that for a change I’m lost for words. Simply, in fifty years of attending conventions, I’ve never seen any lecturer who came even close to being as aspirational. What Joanie Spina gave us was worth the price of the convention. No, two minutes of Joanie’s comments and suggestions on any of the innumerable subjects she addressed were worth more than the registration. No, still not right, the first thirty seconds of this eloquent, graceful, charming and enormously talented lady’s opening remarks were worth the cost of the whole week, because you knew instinctively you were in for the most valuable teaching experience possible from someone who really knew the answers. Topliners Mac King and Jeff Hobson, lecturing at recent conventions started by telling us one or two things “more important than the tricks” as they both put it. Joanie Spina personifies this phrase to the highest level.
Who were the two luckiest conventioneers? Two young people who bravely submitted themselves to the ordeal of letting their act be watched and then appraised by an expert; all this in front of a room full of magicians. Would you have dared? The first, James Milner, aged only fifteen, did his act live on the stage of the Arts Theatre, it was videotaped played back and we eavesdropped on Joanie’s comments and suggestions; in real life usually a one-to-one situation behind closed rehearsal-hall doors. The second, in a smaller room that didn’t have space for a live act performance, was a similar scrutiny of twenty-two year-old Alex Lodge’s shield competition act videotaped live on Wednesday. What did Joanie Spina say and do? Well, you will have read her impressive credits in Paul’s recent column, and I can’t write the book for you, it’s both on DVD and between covers; but I can define her job description of performance coach, I’ve taken advice. “An experienced performer, who is also a skilled teacher and director with the highest artistic standards, who honestly assesses the possibilities within an act, and helps the performers achieve their aims through suggestions and the application of expertise.” Well, Joanie did all this and more, and did it better than anyone I’ve ever worked alongside in television or anywhere else; and moreover did it with enormous grace, kindness and humanity as well as authority. Afterwards, I asked both James and Alex if they had enjoyed the experience: They both said “Oh yes.” I would venture too, that the morning after, they both felt greatly encouraged and more confident; such is the effect of the best teachers…”