Artist of the Month: Jason Bishop - America’s Hottest Illusionist
Illusionist Jason Bishop mystifies with stunning and original state-of-the-art magic, award-winning sleight of hand, and one-of-a-kind grand illusions including the “double levitation” delivered with a totally modern energy and an outstanding rock soundtrack.
Bishop’s interest in magic ran throughout his youth, truly taking shape in his mid-teens. In college Jason studied theatre and then went on the road performing at resorts and amusement parks, anywhere he could find an audience, including the street. As audiences enjoyed the show more and more he altered his magic to become larger and more impressive.
From his breathtaking double levitation to his cutting edge Op-Art and Plasma screen illusions, Jason Bishop now features stunning and original state-of-the art magic. Along the way, he’s become an international award-winning illusionist who is the youngest person to win the Magician’s Alliance of Eastern States Stage Award and one of the youngest people to compete in the Society of American Magicians World-Class competition.
One thing that distinguishes Bishop is his virtuosity. Each show features award winning sleight of hand, exclusive grand illusions and even close-up magic projected onto a huge movie screen. No other touring illusionist showcases such a diverse array of talents. Additionally, the show is delivered with a totally modern energy and an outstanding rock and pop soundtrack.
The show is surprisingly funny and truly magical. Bishop cuts through the usual hype and focuses on entertaining audiences with one remarkable illusion after another. Each routine is presented in his unique style. Some pieces feature more laughs than are typically expected from an illusionist, while other effects literally demonstrate sleight of hand skill performed at a world-class level.
Jason engages the audience on and offstage. He touches them with a snow filled theatre and piques their imaginations when a borrowed dollar bill generously transforms into a one hundred dollar bill. Intelligent lighting, engaging audience participation and countless costume changes by his assistant Kim are added elements that help make each performance unforgettable.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Jason, illusionist, to discuss this thrilling and entertaining performance art.
First off, because this is a travel website. Where are some of the places that you have performed? Have you performed outside of the country?
My assistant, Kim Hess, and I have performed all over the United States and have worked on cruise ships like the Norwegian Dawn and both Disney ships, including The Magic and The Wonder. In the US we have performed in every state from Maine to Arizona. It's pretty amazing to travel, in the same day, from Pennsylvania where I live down to Florida. You notice the trees get slowly coarser as the tops of them rise and expose more trunk. It's interesting to see the gradual change until you realize that you're in Florida, surrounded by palm trees, and realize that you just came from Pennsylvania where you're surrounded by leafy deciduous trees.
Kim and I are excited that in April of 2010, we will take our first trip to Europe. We'll be working on the Disney Magic during its Baltic and Mediterranean runs as well as the two necessary transatlantic runs. That should be exciting and interesting. It stops in Spain, France, England, Russia, Tunisia, Italy, Portugal, Germany and Copenhagen. So from never having been to Europe, we'll be inundated with European culture, experiences and hopefully food, lots and lots of European food. I'll be happy to talk with you again after we return from Europe and rely any experiences or adventures.
What are your biggest challenges, personally or professionally?
One of the biggest challenges of an illusionist is preconception. There are so many awful and cheesy illusionists out there that, although people truly enjoy magic and illusion, they sort of fear the performers. Or so many people think the show is going to be cheesy and glitzy. Our show is the antithesis of the traditional Vegas over-bling. It's edgy and current and smart. We use music from Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, Linkin Park and other really hot bands, which makes it's a show more than any other that brings magic into today.
That said, the biggest challenge is having audiences get over the fear that illusion can't be on par with every other art form or form of entertainment. To be honest, there really are only a small handful of illusionists I would even want to go to see. Unlike music, magic is a small group so it's got an even smaller number of really talented performers. But wow, when illusionists are good they're really good – simply a pleasure to watch. However, when they are bad they can be super bad and make people just not want to go see another one at all.
But again, if you see my show – or someone like Kalin & Jinger, Mac King, Penn & Teller or Lance Burton – you're honestly likely to have a fun, amazing night you'll remember for quite a long time. If any of you readers out there see my show advertised in your area I certainly would love for you to come check it out show. We perform all over the country.
What motivates you or led to your choice to work as an illusionist?
Doing new and more impressive illusions is what motivates me most. It’s a lot of fun to find or work on something that's unique or more spectacular. Showing people something that they have never seen or performing something that no other illusionist has done gets me excited.
As far as getting into it, it was as close to I suppose a calling as one can have. Magic has always interested me. Sometimes in a passing way but it would always it would capture my imagination and interest. As a kid, from seeing magicians on TV to seeing them live, I constantly felt a strong attraction to the performers – more so than my peers or classmates did. The interest was always there but I wasn’t sure that I could do it. I thought it was beyond me and by the time I was 11, I saw a magician who was also about my age performing amazing things. I thought, "Well he's my age and already so far beyond me I could never catch up.”
I guess that's not the case because unless he was a young David Blaine, because I’ve received awards and have been written up as having eclipsed almost every magician my age already as far as level of show and amount of shows performed per year. What a crazy and humbling turn of events.
What does a typical day look like?
Wow, typical. There really are never typical days. A good crazy day (for the day of a show) might start by waking up at 6:45 am, getting dressed, getting my gear together and being at the theater by 7:55 am for load-in. I help with that, which is rare to see the main performer helping to off-load the truck -- but hey it's my show. Everything comes in and the next three hours are spent assembling illusions and placing lights and haze/fog machines etc. Then it's time to write light cues, sound check and walk through every single cue. It's called a cue or a tech run-through and it is important to make the show run smoothly. So now we're about 7 hours in and the first show is performed. It runs roughly 90 minutes plus a 15-minute intermission. So by this point I'm getting tired but also pumped from the audience at the first show. Then about 2 or 3 hours later it's time to do the show again for a new audience. Now I'm getting destroyed, just totally wiped out but, after meeting the audience for about 45 minutes in the lobby it's time to change and go help my crew again with the load out. It takes about 90 minutes to break down. The house crews are often amazing and my personal crew is small but extremely good and unbelievably hard working. As my crew says, “It's finally "door up" time,” and that means the trailer is loaded and the door to it is closed and they can get in the vehicle and go to sleep. That would be about 11 or 12 at night. It's a long day and as you can see just not typical but, fun and rewarding.
What is the one thing you'd want Wandering Educators’ readers to understand about your work in general?
Similar to the question about the challenges, the thing I want people to know most is that there are just some really talented illusionists out there and it's a night of entertainment that might surprise them by how much they will enjoy it. And in a slightly different take, I would like the audience to not to judge good illusionists based off of the performances of a bad magician. It's just like with teachers. You certainly don't want an experience with an awful teacher to jade a person’s view of all teachers. That’s the fear that a bad experience or two will lead to a dislike for the larger group. It's always funny and neat to see how many people come up after my show and say "You know I never really liked magic until I saw you perform". It's very flattering but it's funny because magic is so likable. Magic is the very thing we liked about science as kids or the movie Avatar -- it's the implement to create wonder and there are just very few people who don't like wonder. I'm not really sure there is anyone who doesn't like wonder. You look at the sky and see colors change or glance a school of fish swimming by shifting colors and almost changing shape it really is a thing of wonder and magic just facilitates that. It takes natural curiosities and brings them front and center, live onstage.
Where have you not performed that you would really like to perform?
Japan and Australia/New Zealand.
Japan has always held an interest for me because of its culture, food and history. Naturally, it's all very foreign to me and I would hope that the show translates. Magic translates – a person floats or disappears and that crosses all boundaries. However, there is a language barrier and I do tell jokes and perform set-ups with little stories and that could be the troublesome part. Having a translator on the side could really alter the show. Who knows? Maybe for the better? If anyone who is reading this has experience with translators firsthand, please leave comments and let us know.
Australia and New Zealand are other foreign cultures to me. I’ve heard that both countries are beautiful. It would be really cool to see this sort of other worldly beauty and enjoy the landscape. Plus they have really cool animals down there – odd animals that aren't found anywhere else.
What is your best trick?
The double levitation would likely be the best, it's so surprising and baffling. I make my assistant Kim float into the air high above the ground and then I flew up to meet her. It's just stunning and really amazing.
To keep up with Jason and to find out when The Jason Bishop Show will be performing in your neck of the woods, check out his Web site at http://thejasonbishopshow.com/
Feature photo: Making it snow inside the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ
All photos courtesy and copyright Jason Bishop
Skye Wentworth is the Entertainment Editor for Wandering Educators
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