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.

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 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

Step Afrika! began as a collaboration between American dancers and members of Johannesburg's Soweto Dance Theater in 1994. They have since emerged as one of the top stepping companies in the United States. Their most prolific work, The Migration Series: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, is now on stage at the New Vic! In this, they bring to life The Migration Series, a landmark painting series by Jacob Lawrence inspired by the journey of the millions of African Americans who moved from the rural South to the urban North to rebuild their lives after World War I. We sat down with founder C. Brian Williams to discuss the cultural context surrounding the show.

1. How do you think The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence reflects today's landscape? 
The Migration is an extremely important work for Step Afrika! Every time the cast walks onto the stage, I think of those brave men and women who left the South with its unbearable restrictions on African American life and took a journey without truly understanding what awaited them on the other side. No one ever wants to abandon their home, unless there's no other reasonable alternative. Every performance of The Migration is a percussive tribute to the strength and resilience of these migrants. Their movement truly transformed our country.
Seeing the devastating, forced migration of families in Syria, Myanmar and the Central African Republic, alongside our own country's heated dialogue about immigration, I'm reminded that the issues Jacob Lawrence painted about in 1940 remain relevant today. My hope is that those of us not currently in motion demonstrate even more compassion for those who are. 

The Migration
2. What do you want audience members to walk away thinking? 
First and foremost, I want the audience to have an incredible time at the theater. For Step Afrika! and our incredible team of artists, the theater is a special place where the audience and artist create a very special moment in time together. We all need to make more room for live performance, especially in challenging times, because there's nothing quite like it.
The Migration also gives the audience a chance to reflect on their own individual migration stories. The  journeys taken by all of our ancestors make us who we are. Although we focus on the Great Migration, you can compare Lawrence's paintings and our show to photographs taken at Ellis Island in the early 1900s, videos of migrants heading towards the border in the Southwestern United States, and the images of the tens of thousands of Syrian families escaping the challenges back home in the hope of peace and a better life elsewhere.
We want to remind the audience that within each and every one of us lies a migration story. When we see the challenges faced by the migrants of today, we should never forget that many of our ancestors once walked in those shoes.
C. Brian Williams3. Tell us about stepping and why do you think it's now, finally coming into mainstream culture.
Stepping is such an unique art form and dance tradition and we've enjoyed sharing it with audiences around the globe for over 23 years. With its origins in the early 1900s, stepping was created by African American men and women on college campuses who became members of fraternities and sororities. These Greek-letter organizations, like Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which I am a member, or Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first African-American sorority created in the United States, led to the development of stepping on college campuses. It took over 85 years before mainstream America took notice. 
In 1988, famed director Spike Lee released his film, Skool Daze, which brought an incredible amount of attention to both African American college life and the tradition of stepping. Just a few years later, in 1994, Step Afrika! began and we have been spreading the word non-stop ever since.
The Migration In The Migration, "two art forms meld, and then painted images seem to come to life," according to The Washington Post. Tickets are available today!

Photos: William Perrigen
Posted by Beth Henderson
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