For years we have resorted to fundraising to save arts programs in our schools. It's just our fiscal reality. You can dwell on it and say that's a sad state of affairs. Or you could say, "You know what? Most of those fundraisers are a blast."
Alexander, who lives in Hamilton, has donated so much to the school while his kids have grown up in those classrooms. It's his fifth such show and possibly his last since his kids are getting ready to move on.
"Next year we're thinking about doing it for all the schools in Novato, where any school that wants to sell tickets would get 80 percent of the money raised — with the rest going to expenses of putting on the show," Alexander said. "I have really enjoyed doing these because I know the people who directly benefit from it. One-hundred percent of what we make goes toward art and enrichment for the kids and pays for scholarships for kids who can't afford after-school programs."
Alexander, who has mastered his crafts professionally for 25 years, is on buddy basis with Robin Williams, John Cleese and members of the Rolling Stones and has performed hundreds of exclusive shows at corporate events and private parties. The argument could be made, if you think globally, that he is Novato's best-known entertainer.
His success wouldn't have sprouted unless he received the academic attention he needed as a child.
"I was dyslexic, which made elementary school and junior high pretty tough," said Alexander, who grew up in Texas. "I got through school because of art and music, which back then were readily available in schools. I went to a high school that was specialized in the arts, similar to Marin School of the Arts, and at that point I got a little more help and found some ways to deal with it better."
Alexander had become fascinated with magic when he found a trunk in his grandparents' attic filled with stuff for magic tricks and escapes. His great-grandfather was vaudeville star Gentleman Ben Darwin. But to be successful in school, he needed to master an academic trick.
"I met a man who became my mentor who taught me to use mnemonics, so I was able to memorize the things I needed to get by. A lot of the stuff I do in my shows now is because of having all these memory techniques. If you watch, you'll see a mixture of magic and memory with some lie-detection techniques thrown in for fun."
Alexander first came to the Bay Area at age 18 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute and lived in the city. He and his wife decided to move to the suburbs 11 years ago and picked Novato.
"My wife grew up here, but we never thought we'd end up here," he said. "Hamilton was just a couple of years old at the time. We thought we would never want to live in such a suburban neighborhood. But then you see what it's like with the kids out in the street playing with each other and the great community feel here, and then you see why it works."
The Marin Center shows — set up because Alexander wants to make sure "schools still have arts so kids that have trouble learning in traditional ways can still flourish — are at 2 and 5 p.m. in the Showcase Theater. Tickets are $20 and can be ordered through ordered through the Marin Center Box Office at 499-6800.
Visit www.jayalexandershow.com for more information.