By Diana Nollen
Jason Latimer — a self-proclaimed “ultra nerd” — studied psychology, mathematics, physics and economics in college.
That’s a magical combination for someone who spends his days and nights bending light with his bare hands, shaping water and turning beams of light into solid objects.
Latimer, 28, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is just the third American to be proclaimed the World Champion of Magic, a title he took in 2003 in the Netherlands.
He’s bringing his award-winning style to the Riverside Casino Event Center for two all-ages shows Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. (Jan. 30 and 31) Tickets have nearly vanished for Saturday but are plentiful for Sunday.
Illusions have been shaping his reality since he saw his first magic show at age 9 on a cruise ship.
“I snuck into the second show to see it again,” he says by phone from his storage facility in the greater Los Angeles area, where he was packing up gear to ship to Iowa. “The poor guy — I recognized him on the ship and he was trapped. The ongoing joke was that he had to teach me something since he was stuck at sea.”
Beginning with a simple card trick, Latimer says his interest in magic has evolved over the years.
“Originally, it was about the mechanics of the trade. I’m a big puzzle person. Now my passion is the challenge. I try to pursue illusions no one’s considered before. These projects take years to work out, to go from drawing to life and hearing audience reaction,” he says.
“I start out with an idea so far-fetched, using technology of today no one’s considered. Bending light, shaping water, solid-through-solid are variations of old ideas, but I do them with new styles that are refreshing and new.”
The “ball moving from cup to cup” trick earned him the world title. His twist? He uses clear glass cups. And yet it’s impossible to follow the ball. See for yourself at www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9ie6Tfa_zI
“It’s all about that new challenge for me and the fact that I’m allowed to do anything I want,” he says.
That attitude has moved mountains for Latimer, one the youngest people to be given a headlining week at age 18 at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. He started going to the exclusive 21-and-over club at age 12 for children’s day events, joined the Junior Program at age 16 and was performing there at 17.
Awards started piling up, as did gigs in Las Vegas and beyond.
He now has a team of five managers and agents; three people in creative development; nine more in production and staff positions; and two in Web design and photography. He builds his own equipment in his own workshop and travels around the world performing his illusions and lecturing on the art and science of magic and technology.
“With my background in mathematics, they take me more seriously in the science world. They know it’s not just smoke and mirrors.”
Magic and illusion are separate parts of a greater whole.
“Magic and illusion have the same blend, depending on who you are,” he says. “I’m an illusionist. I create illusions. I build all my gear from scratch and use the rules and laws of science to make something look raw.
“The fantasy of magic would be something like real pixie dust; a trick is considered an illusion. The difference is that magic is more like manipulation arts. Illusion is big-prop art,” he says.
He loves it all.
“In the Iowa shows, you’ll see sleight-of-hand, close-up magic, grand-scale illusion and modern illusion, blended into fun and high energy, with audience participation. It’s just about having a good time.”
What: Illusionist Jason Latimer
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30 and 31
Where: Riverside Casino Event Center, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside
Tickets: $15 all ages through Riverside Casino Gift Shop, 1-(877) 677-3456 or http://tickets.riversidecasinoandresort.com Tickets scarce for Saturday; more seats available Sunday
Information: www.riversidecasinoandresort.com and www.jasonlatimer.com