A Magical Marriage

Levitating act had early trouble getting off the ground

Rising stars
Jonathan and Trisha Hawley

Hawley Magic is the Vegas-style illusion act of husband and wife Jonathan and Trisha Hawley. A magic fan since childhood, he’s from Nottingham, England, and she’s local — a native of Shelby, in NC’s Cleveland County.

They met when they were both cruise-ship dancers, sailing the Mediterranean. And then they met a magician, “who soon became a great friend,” says Trisha. 

But when they decided to leave cruise-ship life behind and develop a magic act of their own, they had to start from scratch. “Even though we were experienced [performers], it was a brand-new show,” says Trisha. “We were living in my parents’ basement with a dream and completely empty pockets, eating $1 microwave meals and ramen noodles.”

Eventually, they decided to audition for America’s Got Talent.

“We took my mom’s minivan down to Tampa Bay with the only illusion that would fit, and hoped for the best. … We got a full standing ovation and got through to Vegas. That’s where we performed our double-levitation illusion. Jonathan made me levitate 12 feet up in the air, and then he, too, levitated up to me.”

Today, audiences are astonished by their David Copperfield-esque performances. The duo was nominated by Princess Cruises for an Entertainer of the Year Award. They headline on Disney Cruises, too, and were the closing act for the largest magic convention in the world.

How much work goes into a performance?

Trisha: The props are heavy and bulky, and we load and unload the truck and build the props on the stage. Then we do a rehearsal. After the show we break down everything and load it up. We usually work from 9 am till 1am the next morning.

Audiences don’t realize how physical and potentially dangerous your act is, do they? 

Jonathan: We like to make our performance more exciting by speeding things up more than other illusionists do. But doing it faster makes it more dangerous. One time I knocked myself out on stage, but I came to and carried on. We got a round of applause.

Trisha: Safety is our top priority. Accidents are rare. But it’s very physical. I always have at least five bruises. One time I had one all down my leg and went to the pool. People looked at my husband like they hated him. But what do you say? “My husband balanced me on my head, impaled me with a sword, put me in a box, and set it on fire?”

Jonathan: We went to get insurance and they said, “Wait, what? You want us to insure equipment that you’re going to set on fire?” 

What do you tell people who ask you how the tricks are done?

Trisha: We always have one answer: “It’s magic.”

Hawley Magic performs at Tryon Fine Arts Center (34 Melrose Ave.) Saturday, June 1, 7pm, Veh Stage. $20/adults, $15/students. For more information, see tryonarts.org or hawleymagic.biz.

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