World-Class Magician Jason Bishop Comes to KU Sunday, March 19

Bishop magic act on stage.

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – Jason Bishop, who will bring his acclaimed magic and illusion show to Kutztown University’s Schaeffer Auditorium, 2 p.m., Sunday, March 19, as part of the KU Presents! Family Series, has performed in 40 countries on six continents. He has starred in two of his own shows in Broadway’s New Victory Theater. He has been featured on NBC’s “Today Show,” Canada’s popular “Breakfast Television Toronto” and Paris’ “Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde.” Some have called him “America’s Hottest Illusionist.”

And he lives right here in the Fleetwood area.

He and his assistant, Kim Hess, are graduates of Fleetwood Area Senior High School, while Bishop studied theater for a time at KU. Now that Bishop is a world-class magician, it is the equivalent of Taylor Swift still living in Berks County.

Tickets for Jason Bishop are $15 and can be purchased by calling the KU Presents! Box Office 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, at 610-683-4092. Established to be the center of cultural life at Kutztown University, KU Presents! serves the campus and community by bringing world-class live arts that entertain, educate and enrich.

At the end of February, Bishop chatted about his career while walking his Yorkshire terrier, Gizmo (who participates in the act), in the Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas, prior to performing the following day in Abilene.

When asked what brought him to a career in illusion and magic, he said, “I always loved it, but never thought I could do it. Then my brother took a circus class where he learned magic tricks.” After his brother taught him a few basics, Bishop continued to hone his skills, learning tricks from videos and books. As a teen, he started attended meetings held by the International Brotherhood of Magicians, primarily with Allentown’s Ring 32, in the basement of the Brass Rail Restaurant on Lehigh St.

“A lot of it is self-motivational,” he said. “It takes hundreds of hours of practice.”

Born in Newark, N.J., Bishop spent his childhood in various foster homes in Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and Berks. He lived in Fleetwood, the headquarters of Concern Foster Care, during third through sixth grades, and then returned to finish his senior year at Fleetwood High School.

By that time, he was already performing as a magician at parties and other gatherings. He met Hess, a Berks County native, who happened to be a dancer, gymnast and award-winning baton twirler. Soon they were working on shows together, with Hess using her performing skills as his assistant. “We were high school sweethearts,” Bishop said, “and now we work together, live together and even have a dog together.”

In addition to traditional magic, Bishop always had an interest in electronics, woodworking and metal work. He has used his abilities in these areas to come up with larger illusions, building his show into one of the largest touring illusion shows on the scene today. He is known for using technology like plasma screens and LCD TV screens to give the audience a close-up view of his sleight-of-hand tricks and performs with a rock soundtrack. He continues to come up with baffling illusions such as the unique and dangerous double levitation, “fog balls” and the trick of making Gizmo disappear.

On a recent weeklong tour that began in the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, Bishop said he and Hess premiered three new illusions in 22 shows. “After every show we debriefed on how we could make it better, so it kept changing.” He said they are “always changing the act,” and refuse to allow themselves to be categorized, combining big illusions with simple card tricks and other classics, executed to perfection.

Even when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down touring, they continued to work, converting a bedroom into a studio and creating Zoom shows. In January 2021, Bishop said, after living on savings for a while, they were offered a full-time residency at the gigantic Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas, for five months. After that, as cruise ships re-opened, he became the first magician in North America to return to performing on cruises.

Bishop has developed an ability to connect with live audiences during his years of street performing and entertaining people of all ages at small gatherings. His show is popular with families because of his low-key manner, his humor and the fact that he involves the audience in many of his tricks. The KU Presents! show will give its audience a rare opportunity to see Bishop and Hess onstage in their own county.