Haven ConVENTion 2008:
to the Next Level
Pictures by Phillip Jones and David Crone
This year's theme says it
all about the schedule of events at the 2008 Vent Haven ConVENTion!
Executive Director Mark Wade and
his dedicated team of associate directors took our annual gathering of
ventriloquists from around the world to the next level with an exciting
combination of several ConVENTion firsts and, of course, our traditional
ConVENTion 2008 was off
to a fabulous series of firsts on Wednesday when a record setting 80 new
attendees were present for the First Timers' Orientation. Vent Haven
Museum President Brook Brooking enthusiastically greeted everyone at the
Official Opening and made special note of the record number of
newcomers. This year's "red dotters" were even easier to
spot in the crowd as the Hospitality Committee, headed by Bob
and Marty Hamill, handed out red ribbons for the badges as well as the
dots, another first. With Chris
Donahoe holding a giant sign over his head in London Hall Lobby, no
one could miss the Hospitality Committee welcoming all these new people to
the Vent Haven fun.
In order to accommodate
the growing number of attendees who want to gain valuable stage
experience, this year Mark scheduled three General Open Mic sessions
instead of one. These sessions, as well as the Junior Open Mic and
Senior Open Mic, were full of attendees at all experience
This year also premiered
a Vent Round Table for Lady Puppet/Figure Makers. Tim
Cowles moderated while Mary Ann
Taylor, Melissa Taylor, Michele
Acquin, and Kristin L. gave their perspectives on puppet selection and
care, character ideas, ordering tips, etc.
After filming at
ConVENTion 2007, director and producer Bryan
Simon and his wife Marge
chose the Vent Haven ConVENTion 2008 as the venue to premier their
full length documentary, I'm
No Dummy. Their film benefits us all by showing
ventriloquism's rich history and its relevance today. Bryan and Marge also
generously donated an original, framed I'm No Dummy promotional
poster to the museum. To see the trailer for I'm
No Dummy, click here.
With a new type of
ConVENTion performance, Bob
and Marty Hamill were the first act of the ConVENTion with their
Tribute to Carol Burnett. Marty was able to emulate Burnett's famous
cleaning lady character, and her similar appearance to the character was
uncanny. Bob played the bumbling Tim Conway role.
Two of our international
performers were first timers. Zilla
and Totte, winner of Sweden's Got Talent, performed in the
International Show and participated in the International Vent Panel.
Elgregoe of New
Zealand did the same, and he gave a workshop on Magic and
Ventriloquism. Also on the International Show and panel were Val
Hilliker of Canada and MC Stevo
A huge pre-ConVENTion
buzz surrounded Mark's other first, a performance and Q & A session by
America's Got Talent 2007 winner, Terry
Fator. Terry brought the house down with his performance which
showcased dozens of voices from every era and genre of song. He also
watched the Junior Open Mic performances and met with the juniors after
that show. Additionally, Fator made an incredibly generous donation
to Vent Haven Museum.
In addition to all the
above ConVENTion firsts, Mark filled the remainder of the schedule with
the long time favorites that ConVENTioneers have come to expect. Lectures,
workshops, and roundtable discussions punctuated the schedule and gave
attendees valuable information, tips, and opportunities to ask
questions. Each day provided learning opportunities by experts in
the field. Thursday included Breaking "Down the Walls of
Show Business" with Ken
Groves who doesn't sugar coat anything. Ken gave excellent
information about how to deal with different venues, communicating
performer needs to a client, and some great practice techniques. Tim
and Amanda Cowles continued to provide valuable tips with "From
the Sage to the Stage" where they shared staging techniques and
talked about working in schools.
Friday's Workshop Day
covered a huge range of topics starting with Dale
Brown's excellent workshop "Write Original Comedy Dialogs for
Ventriloquist Characters." He outlined a very practical method
for writing jokes and really emphasized that it takes hard work and daily
discipline to come up with those gold nuggets of funny. Val
Hilliker talked about "Walk Around/Strolling
In the afternoon,
Advanced Studies sessions included "Picking Audience Volunteers"
with Stephen Knowles who
estimates that he has pulled well over 7000 volunteers onto stage over the
course of his career; I'd say that makes him an expert. Gary
Owen and Mark Wade teamed up
for "Secrets of Distant Voice: Baby Cry, Polyphony," and Dan
Horn worked with a packed, standing room only audience for
"Master Puppet Manipulation." This session was lively and
colorful as everyone was instructed to bring their puppets and immediately
practice the techniques Dan has so expertly developed.
In the Semi-Pro
roundtable, Ken Groves
moderated as Mike Hemmelgarn,
Denny Baker, and David
Crone shared experiences and ideas to help attendees transition from
amateur to semi-professional status. Junior Vent University was a
complete success last year, so it was on the schedule as well. There
is no substitute for the help and encouragement given by veterans to those
who are brand new to ventriloquism.
highlights of the ConVENTion included the Vent Haven Raffle on Friday
night and the tours of the Museum on Saturday. The money raised from
the raffle goes directly to support the Museum, and as always, the
ConVENTioneers were very generous. A huge "thanks" goes to
all who participate in the raffle each year, whether it's donating items
to be raffled or buying tickets. On Saturday, the busses took the
attendees to Vent Haven Museum
to see W.S. Berger's fabulous collection. Many first timer's commented the
museum is overwhelming on first sight and that it would take several trips
to see everything.
As always, the ConVENTion
was packed with great entertainment. Ken Lucas and Casey, a man and his
duck, performed a one man show Wednesday to a full house. Saturday
afternoon Jeff Dunham and his
cast of characters entertained everyone with a thorough question and
answer session. Jeff made a huge financial donation to the Museum
and also donated two plaques to commemorate his record setting DVD sales
of Arguing with Myself and Spark of Insanity.
Each day the packed
Dealers’ Rooms were open for conventioneers to browse and to buy
everything necessary to take their acts to the next level.
Sales were very brisk and many dealers sold out of their
merchandise the first or second day.
The Saturday All Star
Show was cast with a wonderful variety of vent acts. David
Turner opened the show with his popular characters, Johnny Cash,
Harley, and Stella and received a standing ovation at the end.
Mike Hemmelgarn was next and kept the crowd enthralled and laughing
with his ventriloquism, magic, and especially his juggling. The
closing act for the show was the multitalented Pete
Michaels. Pete opened with a little standup and his tribute to Jerry
Lewis's famous typing skit, then pulled out his characters Papa and
Krelmin. He closed the show with the crowd pleaser Sonny & Cher
and Bob Abdou, respectively.
ConVENTion 2008 was a
huge success. By having so many first time events and including the
traditional favorites that everyone loves, Executive Director Mark
Wade and his incredible staff, created another
memorable event for everyone. I'm already looking forward to see
what he has in store for us next year. See you all in Ft. Mitchell
on July15th-18th, 2009 for the 34th annual Vent Haven ConVENTion.
ConVENTion Photo Available
To download the photo, right
click one of the links below and choose "Save Target as" or "Save
Picture" to save the photo to your computer. The Vent Haven Convention
website provides you with three options below. Download one or all
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Haven ConVENTion, Inc.
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