Live life with curiosity: That’s Kevin James’ mantra

By Bret Pierce
Times-News correspondent


Kevin James, The Inventor from The Illusionists, is shown. [Joan Marcus

Kevin James, known as The Inventor with The Illusionists performance troupe, recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk about magic, his circus ancestry and the national touring production. The Illusionists will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, May 11, 2018, and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), 123 Vivian St., Durham.
Teens & 20s: Can you describe your first experience seeing magic performed and what set you down the path to where you are today?
Kevin James: I was like most young kids. At some point they get interested in magic. The lucky ones never grow out of it. I first saw a magician at my school and that was really fun. Then Canadian magician Doug Henning blasted on the television scene in the late 1970s and that sealed the deal. I knew that I would be a magician for the rest of my life. No regrets.
Teens & 20s: Why do you create tricks as well as perform?
James: Early on, I felt that I needed to set myself apart from every other magician on the planet. I wanted to create my own voice and point of view with magic. It is much harder to do original material. I am very happy to go down the road less traveled.
Teens & 20s: Where does your inspiration for new tricks come from?
James: I find inspiration in lots of places. Some of them include music, art, theater, hardware stores, toy stores, literature, nature and life experience. You just have to live your life with curiosity and ask the universe the right questions. I am always on the lookout for something that can be a notion or a germ of an idea that can be worked into a performance piece for the show. And read a lot. If you have a lot of things floating around in your brain, when you ask yourself a question, your subconscious will start to connect the dots, and give you the answer.
Teens & 20s: What is it about performing magic for people that you love so much?
James: I remember how I felt when I saw magic performed for me the first time. I wanted to be able to give that feeling to others. And I never wanted a real job.
Teens & 20s: How did you get involved with The Illusionists in the first place?
James: The producer, Simon Painter, head-hunted us for a three-week job at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. There was such an amazing synergy and excitement. We broke box office records. That three week job has turned into six years.
Teens & 20s: With your esteemed ancestry (P.T. Barnum), do you think that you have learned some techniques for the great performances that you do by his example?
James: Yes, studying Barnum has been a great lesson in many things. He was a very hard worker. He loved to show the strange, exotic and unusual. He had a diminutive assistant, Tom Thumb, for many years. I have been working with a little person, Antonio Hoyos, for nearly 34 years now. Barnum also was a magician. We love a lot of the same things for sure.
Teens & 20s: What led you to choosing such a different style of performing magic than that of most classic magicians?
James: When we were first approached for The Illusionists, the producer asked us to come up with a moniker that would sing to our specialty. He said imagine if you were a magic superhero, what would your super power be? Because I invent my own magic, I chose to be called The Inventor. It was a nice big playground to play in. So I am this gregarious uncle who is a tinkerer in his laboratory, creating crazy new illusions.

Tickets are $30 to $111 and can be purchased at

Bret Pierce is a sophomore at Page High School in Greensboro and a Teens & 20s writer.

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