By Kevin Spencer
“I now understand the power of the arts to impact the quality of people’s lives in ways I never imagined.”
Since the age of 5, I've always wanted to be a magician. I had the privilege of being mentored by one of the greatest magicians of the 20th century, Doug Henning. He taught me that "magic + theatre = art" - a formula that carried him to Broadway. It has carried me to some of the world’s most prestigious stages in 34 countries on 6 continents over a successful 30-year career in the performing arts. I never believed I could achieve greater satisfaction than traveling the globe performing magic. But I was wrong.
Through my own personal tragedy and, more recently, my association with some extraordinary individuals, I've learned that mastering even the simplest magic trick can be one of the most satisfying and therapeutic activities one can do. Early in my career, I was involved in a near-fatal car accident. As a result, I suffered a closed brain injury and a lower spinal cord injury that put me in neurological intensive care. I spent the next several months in rehabilitation working hard to regain the skills I had lost. Staying motivated to stick with my therapy program was difficult. It was long, frustrating, boring and very scary. Each day, I became more aware that I might never perform again; but I also became more mindful of the challenges that people with disabilities face every day of their lives.
Through the encouragement of great therapists, I achieved a full recovery. But I was struck by the need to make therapy more fun and motivating. As a result, I collaborated with rehabilitation therapists to develop a program that uses simple magic tricks to help patients regain lost physical skills while increasing motivational levels and self-esteem. Today, the American Occupational Therapy and American Medical Associations have approved the concepts of “magic therapy” and it is being implemented in more than 2,000 facilities in over 30 countries.
Since that time, using my artistic skills to work with people with disabilities has become my passion. Raising awareness about their struggle to become a part of the global society is one of my missions. Presenters have given me great freedom in reaching beyond the stage and into their communities in non-traditional ways with my residency. Some of that work has been captured in a new short documentary titled Powerful Medicine: Simply Magic. This film is not about me; it’s about some remarkable individuals with different abilities who share their “magical” stories in a compassionate and captivating way. But it’s also a call to action, one that I know the arts community will rally to support. I hope you’ll take 22 minutes to watch this film – and then Join the Movement.