Illusionist to appear at BYU-Idaho tonight

It was the library in Allentown, Pa., that set Jason Bishop on the path to becoming an illusionist.

As a boy, Bishop used to frequent his hometown library, searching for books that would help him master the art of magic. He apparently learned his lessons well. As an adult, Bishop has amazed and mystified audiences across the United States and Europe.

“Magic was just something I always loved,” Bishop said in an interview with the Post Register.

Tonight, he will share that love at Kirkham Auditorium, performing two shows on the Rexburg campus of Brigham Young University-Idaho.

As he watched magicians perform on television shows during his youth, Bishop said he became interested in learning how the tricks were done. So he started reading and practicing to perfect his skills.

“Once I got pretty good at doing things like card tricks, I started showing some friends my tricks,” Bishop said. “I loved the feeling of doing magic in front of people and seeing their reaction. That made me want to perform more.”

He was hooked.

Soon, Bishop joined a local magic club. By the time he was 15, Bishop said he was performing at birthday parties and staging magic shows for friends.

“That’s where I really got introduced to performing,” he said.

Don Sparhawk, BYU-Idaho’s Center Stage and performance tours coordinator, said Bishop has the ability to squeeze a large number of tricks into each performance.

“It’s a really versatile show,” Sparhawk said. “He’ll have some small card tricks and smaller tricks like that. Then he has some really large-scale tricks that he’ll perform.”

The 30-year-old Bishop said he’s drawn inspiration from several magicians, including David Copperfield, Lance Burton and the legendary Harry Houdini.

His performance features a “double levitation” — an illusion performed by no other touring magician, he said.

“The double levitation trick is pretty exciting. My assistant will first levitate about 15 feet in the air, then I will join her and we come down together. It’s a challenging trick to perform (and) is something really unique in the show,” he said.

But that’s not Bishop’s favorite.

“Near the end of the show, I do a card trick that’s pretty unique,” he said. “I start by making the cards disappear and reappear in different places, then I start making the cards bounce off the stage. The cards will go 30 or 40 feet into the crowd. It’s a fun trick and the audience always loves it.”

Magic is a popular attraction on the BYU-Idaho campus.

“We had an illusionist here a few years ago and he was very popular with our students,” Sparhawk said. “Ever since then, we have had students asking for us to bring another show.”

This will be Bishop’s first appearance at BYU-Idaho.

“I think it really stretches people’s imaginations to try to figure out our how he does what he does,” Sparhawk said. “I know that I’m totally bewildered.”

Nathan Davis can be reached at 542-6762.