RAHWAY — Naathan Phan, Ben Blaque and Jason Bishop will be putting on an incredible magic show at the Union County Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Nov. 2.
Their astounding skills include large-scale grand illusions, comedy and close-up magic, in-your-face sleight-of-hand, dangerous escapes, the appearance of birds from thin air, music, smartphone technology and plenty of laughs. The show also features audience participation.
“Masters of Illusion Live” came from the multi-awarding winning television series, “Masters of Illusion,” which is currently celebrating its 10th season on The CW network. The stage show has been presented around the world and in front of tens of thousands.
Bishop’s New York City shows on Broadway, “Straight Up Magic” and “Believe in Magic,” have left theatergoers spellbound. He’s also been on NBC’s “Today Show,” The CW’s “Masters of Illusion,” CBS’s “Sunday Morning” and Europe’s legendary “Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde,” filmed in Paris.
Bishop’s performances have led him to more than 40 countries on six continents. This is his first appearance on tour with “Masters of Illusion Live.”
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Bishop had a hard childhood in foster care, but was always interested in magic. “I didn’t think I could do it,” he said. “It always piqued my interest.” At the age of 15, he was inspired by his older brother, who showed him a trick he did in school. Since then, he has worked on magic every day.
He said he sees a parallel childhood in magician greats such as Harry Houdini and Howard Thurston. “A lot of magicians had a tough upbringing and they used magic,” he said. “They weren’t going to attend Harvard. All huge magicians of their times come from humble beginnings.”
Bishop doesn’t have memories of his biological father, and his mother, who he visited while she was in prison, died two weeks after his 18th birthday. “The bond got eroded,” he said.
While in his senior year at high school, Bishop met Kim Hess — a baton twirler who competed and won more than 100 awards — and they’ve been together ever since. Hess now performs onstage with Bishop. “She has a natural way on stage,” he said. “People enjoy it.”
Bishop said he realized that performing magic would be a permanent way of life when he was doing it consistently for three years without taking side jobs. “I haven’t had to clean someone’s office,” he said. “All my money has come from magic. That was a marker.”
Another “magic” moment in Bishop’s career was when, after a hard day’s work and being exhausted, then putting on a show, it was 11 p.m. and he opened the back door of a theater and it dawned on him. He was on 42nd Street, performing at New Victory. “Oh my God, I’m in Times Square. This is significant,” he said.
But being a great success doesn’t come without problems, and they are at every level. “Originally, it’s hard to get booked,” he said. “You don’t have awards, you don’t have experience, you don’t have that many skills. You’re at the mercy of anyone who will have you. Thank God we don’t have that anymore.”
There are also scheduling conflicts. “Any time you get booked, you get others wanting to book you at the same time,” he said. Also, getting from Atlanta to Connecticut in a day is rough. “It’s part of the whole thing,” he said. “I’m not complaining. It can be difficult logistically.”
It’s also more than a workday setting up the show. Bishop explained that his crew will be setting up for 10 or 12 hours. “There’s a lot that goes into it,” he said.
When Bishop isn’t working, he stays home, since his career has him traveling so much. “We’re gone over 50% of the time. We’re fortunate we get to travel so much. It’s nice to chill at home.”
Bishop will be with the “Masters” tour for several more dates, then
it’s a quick whirlwind of other events. “Kim is literally making a calendar right now,” he said. “It is a very complicated calendar.”
Bishop and Hess live together with their dog, Gizmo, who is also part of the show.
For more information on Bishop, the other illusionists, Phan and Blaque and tickets to the “Masters of Illusion Live” show, visit the UCPAC website: https://ucpac.org/event/masters-of-illusion/.
Photo courtesy of Masters of Illusion