When Stephanie Shiflett first saw the man she would marry, he was in a church talent show.
“I thought, ‘Who would do that?’” she said.
“That” was balancing a series of odd objects on his chin – from a broom to a 30-foot ladder.
It’s a skill that has landed Kevin Shiflett in talent shows and as the featured performer during Utah Jazz halftime shows.
The Shifletts married a year ago and moved to The Villages at Rancho El Dorado. Kevin works in Phoenix for a contractor with Homeland Security. Stephanie has taught at Butterfield Elementary School for six years.
Together, they are building an act.
Kevin Shiflett is the guy in the spotlight eliciting gasps. Stephanie has helped work on the timing, sequencing and just the right music.
Originally from Mesa, Kevin, 30, first realized he had the skill when he was 10 years old after trying to imitate a circus clown who balanced objects on this chin. He and his brother got out a broom to find out how difficult the act was.
“My brother couldn’t do it, but I could,” Shiflett said.
Because the broom was the first prop he balanced, he keeps it in his act. The broom stick also taught him to “find the stick” in every prop he lifts for best balance. As long has he can lift it, he can usually find the balance point.
“I just want it to evolve into bigger and better things,” he said.
That is essential as the Shifletts work to build the act from parties and talent shows to a showstopper. A big step in that direction came when he won a Utah Jazz Halftime Talent Search in Salt Lake City. Part of the prize was getting to perform his act at halftime of a Utah Jazz basketball game last year. He did so again Feb. 25.
He performed for an event the Phoenix Suns hosted for Verizon employees on March 2 and came back to perform during a game.
Shiflett starts small and builds the act with larger and larger objects. Stephanie suggested laying out the smaller props on a long folding table at the beginning of the show and working his way through them and then to items that are rolled out (for instance a bicycle and a wheel barrow) and at last to the table itself.
He can’t see the audience because his head is back, but he hears the response build, until the final “You gotta be kidding!” or “I called it!” when the table goes up.
“There’s nothing better than hearing people expressing excitement,” he said.
He does not use a chin strap or other gear. The only thing between his chin and his props is a few whiskers “for friction.” He has not been injured and has never dropped a prop. Besides pressure on his jaw, the act does put weight on his back, but nothing that a good massage doesn’t relieve.
Shiflett is entirely self-taught simply because finding a mentor is difficult with such a small pool of people with his odd talent to draw from.
He said he was contacted last year by “America’s Got Talent.” The timing was off (he had a broken ankle – not from the act), but Shiflett says he will explore the possibility again.
As the Shifletts try to expand their horizons with his unique talent and find larger audiences, they like the new home they have found in Maricopa.
“Being from a small town, it’s great to still get that small-town feeling,” said Stephanie, who is from Taylor in Navajo County.
“It’s more community. You get to know more people. It’s still growing,” Kevin said. “We have to think, ‘What else is to come in Maricopa?’”
This story appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.