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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

Watching a magician perform mind-blowing illusions is astounding, but have you ever wondered what it's like to work on a trick behind the scenes? Kim Hess helps Jason Bishop in Believe in Magic more than any audience could possibly know. We sat down with her to talk about what it's like to make the magic happen.

Kim HessThe most asked question when someone hears I'm a magician's assistant is, "Does he cut you in half?" Usually, people are surprised when I answer no. We (currently) do not have an illusion where I get cut in half, but I DO get impaled with swords. 

Most people think that my only job as a magician's assistant is performing onstage—getting cut in half, disappearing or appearing. The truth is that there is so much more to my job than what the audience sees. I am an accountant, a long-distance driver, a travel agent, a choreographer, a seamstress and more roles than would fit into this post. My favorite part is the sheer number of skills you must learn to perform.

The work of a magician's assistant is very hands on—we jump in and help with anything at the drop of a hat. Because I help load in the show, assemble the illusions and build the routines, I need to learn the tricks like the back of my hand and constantly be aware of my surroundings. If something unexpected happens, it makes it easier to change the routine on the fly (yup, that's happened more than once).

I'm always paying attention to the show. Even if I'm preparing the next illusion and I get the sense something is wrong, I'll drop what I'm doing and help. Growing up, I learned what's happening on stage is the most important thing. When I was young, I was a baton twirler and cheerleader, so when I met Jason it just clicked. I had the basic knowledge of how to move onstage and over the past few years, I continued to grow that muscle.

Being a baton twirler is a big help because you learn how to perform with others. One of the first lessons that stuck with me is the importance of making sure your toss is right for the other person before you worry about the baton you have to catch. It's similar to magic. In both, you have to make sure the setup is right so it doesn't cause difficulty later. This automatically builds trust with your partner! With Jason, I expect him to be at a specific spot or move in a certain way when he is supposed to, and vice versa. 

See Kim contort herself into impossible poses and toss glowing batons to the rafters in Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic!
 
Jason Bishop Thumb Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but this show is so delightful! Back by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason Bishop returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve. Get your tickets to Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic today!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Have you ever watched an illusionist perform and wondered how the tricks were done? Well, Jason Bishop can't reveal his secrets, but, in honor of his latest show Believe in Magic, he wanted to share with you seven facts about life as a professional magician. 
 
Jason BishopIt's important to have a LOT of interests. One thing I really love about being a magician is that I'm able to use all of my (many) hobbies in my illusions. I get to use physics, electronics, chemistry, video editing and even animal training. It's important to become both a jack of all trades and a master of all trades so you can have a rich background to pull from to surprise and delight your audience. 

Performing is the fun part. Being in front of an audience and sensing that they're totally with you is one of my favorite feelings in the world. But sometimes, it's a challenge just to arrive at the gig. There was one time that I traveled for over 24 hours to get to Australia and needed to immediately perform the very same night I arrived. Entertainers miss holidays, weddings, birthdays and every other special event in the calendar. It can be a drag, but when I entertain an audience that is fully invested in the magic, it's all worth it. 

There's a lot of travel. Kim, Gizmo and I are all from Pennsylvania, but we've been fortunate enough to travel to France, China, the United Kingdom, Norway, Australia and Hawaii. I can't begin to count the number of fascinating people I've met and the amazing places I've visited. Every day, I'm thankful for all of the incredible venues who've booked us around the world.

You're the most popular person at a party. People I meet are equal parts entertained and intrigued by what I do. When someone requests a trick, it's usually one of the two most popular requests—making a million dollars appear or making their spouse disappear. Let it be known, I've never taken either request. When I'm eating, people usually ask "So, how are you making all that food vanish?"

Jason BishopYou have to hold two opposing thoughts in your head at the same time. A magician knows how a trick is done, but also what the illusion should look like. A part of me totally believes that I'm floating an object in the air, but another part of me is thinking intently about the mechanics of the illusion.

There are lots of different types of magic. In magic, there are large stage illusionists who accomplish enormous tricks. On the flip side, close up magicians with very small, fine illusions perform equally complex feats that can only be seen by a few people. There's also comedy magic and mentalism, where the performer seems to read people's minds. Like right now you're thinking...is Jason a mentalist? The answer is no, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. 

Magic crosses cultural and language boundaries. No matter where I perform an illusion, whether it's in China or in Norway, people respond in the exact same way because smiles, gasps and laughs are all universal. There's nothing like knowing you've amazed a person when you can't speak the same language. A big reason why I chose this career is because magic is one of the only things that can easily cross those barriers and bring people together.

Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
 
Jason Bishop Thumb Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but this show is so delightful! Back by popular demand after last season's sold-out run, Jason Bishop returns with even more tricks (and wry one-liners) up his sleeve. Get your tickets to Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic today!
 
 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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