You may or may not know that every year Bob Abdou has been performing at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital when he goes to the Vent Haven ConVENTion in July.
Today he gives some great advice about performing at hospitals.
I will be going to my first ventriloquist convention this summer and I understand you perform at the hospital, can I perform with you?
First let me say, your life is going to change for the better when you attend your first convention! I still cherish the memories of my first convention. If I can assist you in any way just let me know (I am on the hospitality committee.)
As far as the hospital show, unfortunately, I’m limited to a small number of performers for that. We have to get updated approvals a year in advance along with updated guidelines and current background checks. It is a long drawn-out process and we are now established into their system and have a relationship with the staff and hospital committee.
There are three performers (including myself) that have been doing the show at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for the past eight years. We perform a 45 minute show in the activity room that gets filled to capacity with children, parents and staff. We are very careful to stay within the hospital requirements and we ooze kindness for everyone in the room. After the show the activities director always books us again a year in advance. I can truly say I am blessed to perform with two of the most genuine, selfless performers with a heart of gold, Bob May of St. Louis and Lucky Al Rivera from New York.
Unfortunately, if I said “Yes” to everybody who asked, the hospital show would turn into a mini convention! But I encourage everyone to consider doing a hospital shows in your own area. They can be very rewarding, I know my heart bursts with love every time. You will have to experience it yourself .
Keep in mind though, there are important requirements and guidelines for performing for hospitals. The days of just walking into the hospital lobby with a puppet and telling jokes are gone. Now there are security measures in place, especially at children’s hospitals. Sometimes filling out the paperwork can take longer than a show!
If you are serious about performing at a hospital, here are a few things to keep in mind:
· Before you do anything, call the hospital and explain what you do and how you do it and get official approval before you do anything.
· Be professional. Be prepared to be “ON” the minute you walk into that hospital. Hospital people have enough to worry about without worrying about you being unpredictable.
· It’s important to remember what NOT to say to patients like “when are you leaving? “Are you going to be okay?” because there is sometimes a chance they will never leave and the will never be okay. Play it safe and ask the staff if there are things you shouldn’t stay.
· It’s kind of obvious, but adults and children who are in the hospital can have some serious health problems. If you can’t handle this and put on a happy face, DON’T DO HOSPITAL SHOWS!
· Latex puppets can be a no no. If you try and sneak them in you are only causing trouble.
· Never touch a child without permission from the parents or guardian in the room.
· If you are doing room to room visits, never be alone with a child in the room. Wait till someone comes in with you.
· You shouldn’t always expect out-loud laughs, excitement or cheers. Remember, we’re there for them, not for our own egos.
I’m sure this list can go on and on. Some entertainers like Shawn Patrello, Bob Shimer and others have a lot of experience with hospital shows. If anyone else wants to add their suggestions in the comments, please do so.
The main thing to remember is always check with the staff. Listen to what is required and do what you’re told. If we follow directions we will be a welcoming breath of fresh air to an ailing child or adult, their families and the staff. If the performance goes well, you can be invited back again and that is a blessing in itself. Such is the case with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Elvis Presley once said: “When you let your head get too big it’ll break your neck.” Hospital shows always put me back in my place. They are always a humbling experience and they force me to stop focusing on myself and start creating a happy atmosphere for others. They make me realize that life is precious and giving the gift of laughter is priceless. We all have a gift, the joy of giving without a paycheck will last longer than any money received.
Now that I have given my soap box speech, I challenge all performers— rich or struggling, new or polished, those in a major city or in a country town— perform at a hospital for FREE. Whatever the hospital needs from you, do a show in the dining room or going room to room, just do it for FREE. Doing a hospital show will change your life for the better. Remember: Laughter is the best medicine, unless you have a migraine.
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger
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