Father-daughter illusionist team calls VISION epitome of career

Priscilla Khong shares with Imagine TV Network the magic behind VISION, a show she co-created, and the challenges of working with her father, Lawrence Khong.

Words by Elaine Xu

First performed in 2011, VISION returns to the Esplanade Theater this week and Priscilla Khong says the production is their signature calling card. The original intention of creating VISION was to produce something that defined themselves and their company, Gateway Entertainment. As professional illusionists, she says that the illusion theater production is their signature calling card because no one had merged illusion with theater before in Singapore.

Image credit: Gateway Entertainment

"The production is really the epitome of our career... A typical magic performance is a repertoire of illusions back-to-back," she remarks. "But with VISION, we are adding dance, music and a full theatrical storyline to the illusions."

Explaining the difference between an illusionist and a magician, she says that the term 'magician' is a category that encompasses a broad range of people. While an illusionist is also considered as a magician, a magician might not be an illusionist. Prestidigitators, also known as sleight-of-hand artists, and mentalists, whom demonstrate extraordinary mental feats such as precognition and rapid calculations, are referred to as illusionists.

A great friend, Khong calls Don Wayne a "brilliant mind for magic" and says they thought of him when they wanted to bring VISION's large and complex illusions to fruition. Wayne, who worked with David Copperfield for each of his television specials, brought his knowledge and experience to the production and understood what her father and her wanted to accomplish in the show.

Image credit: Gateway Entertainment

Working with Wayne involved not only bouncing off ideas but creative play, where they would try out the different ideas he had. "Producing and performing illusions for outdoor television and stage is very different, and we needed the right mind (and eyes) to be able emulate the grandness and complexity of the world’s best magic, and ‘compact’ it to a stage presentation," she adds.

The greatest satisfaction, she shares, is when she sees the disbelief and amazement on the audience's faces. In that instant, she knows she suspended their belief in reality and she notes that the art of illusion is timeless and will never lose its allure. "I believe this it is because it evokes the child-like wonder and amazement in all of us."

She asserts that when audience knows how a trick or illusion is performed, they lose the child-like wonder and amazement. "There's good reason why illusionists never reveal their trade craft and secrets." The 'magic,' she says, lies in not knowing -- a contrast in a world where people constantly seek for answers and have their lives dictated by black and white.

Returning to the stage after four years, she says this year's version of VISION has a few significant changes. One of the most obvious is the major revamp of the storyline to make it sharper and tighter. "When combining illusion with a full-fledged theater play, both have to be able to complement each other and be weaved together seamlessly... You need a story and reason to set-up the illusion and explain why it's happening."

To accommodate the storyline changes, the line-up of illusions have also been revised and new illusions were added to keep the pacing tighter and to better tell the story. One showstopper is when an empty canopy surrounds the audience and a car appears right before their eyes.

Image credit: Gateway Entertainment

"The script, backdrop and of course, the illusions are all different – and somewhat darker, more intense and to some extent even more sinister," she comments. Her role and personality in the show have also evolved and she gets to explore her character's inner psyche. "Her pain, anguish and frustrations with her father become fully manifested in a scene called Priscila's Domain."

In real life, Khong is candid that working with her father came with its set of challenges. As Singapore's only father-daughter illusionist team, she shares that her father, Lawrence Khong, is her guide and critic, something she found both stressful and scary at times. Her father started her in magic but she confessed that it was hard when they first started working together.

"My dad strives towards sophistication and being classy - be it simple manipulation with cards and billiard balls to grand huge illusions. I tend to be more dramatic and theatrical where I create a mini fantasy through all my routines." Referring to her father as a perfectionist, she says this difference in style led to creative tiffs. Over the years, however, as they began to respect each other's ideas and creative space, she started enjoying their work relationship.

"Knowing that you are putting your safety and life in the hands of someone you really trust and love gives you that degree of comfort and confidence that someone is 'watching your back;' this helps you to focus to execute the stunt or illusion safely and flawlessly," she concludes.

VISION is performing at the Esplanade Theater in Singapore from now until 12 July 2015.

 

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