Name: Jason Suran
Hometown: Skokie, Ill.
Now Lives: In a brownstone in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Claim to Fame: Mr. Suran is a postmodern mentalist and dapper showman who jokingly calls himself a “demon we should kill with fire just to be safe.” His updated twists on classic psychological illusions — one trick involves swallowing needles — have spellbound the upper ranks of New York nightlife (he was an artist in residence at the Norwood Club in Chelsea last year), Hollywood (he has performed for Robert DeNiro and Jamie Lee Curtis) and even the Pentagon (he once entertained former intelligence officers over lunch).
In an era of contested truths, Mr. Suran said it’s important that his sorcery is built on transparency. “I give people a peek behind the curtain without spoiling the mystery,” he said. “A kernel of truth makes people more passionate about the show, not less.”
Big Break: His first brush with the mystery arts came in 2010, when he was studying at New York University and moonlighting as an usher at Monday Night Magic, a long-running magician’s night at the Players Theater in Greenwich Village. A motley crew of “magicians, jugglers, glass eaters and, of course, the odd mentalist” would grab a post-performance bite at the nearby Washington Square Diner to discuss “card tricks, coin tricks, escapes, side show, pickpocketing, juggling and even just the artistic theory of magic,” he said. A year later, Mr. Suran was performing his own solo shows at cocktail parties and places like the National Arts Club. “Mentalism is so thrilling because it’s one of the few art forms that puts the audience on display in a very real way,” he said.
Latest Project: When New York went into lockdown last spring, Mr. Suran retooled his hourlong show for a virtual audience. “Reconnected,” which involves upward of 25 strangers logging into a Zoom video conference — everyone is encouraged to keep their webcams on for better audience interaction — has sold out over 200 performances since July. Despite the physical remove, the shows have been surprisingly intimate. “We’re all going through this equally terrifying game of Russian roulette together,“ he said. “Just as all of us are going through Covid and quarantine together.”
Next Thing: Although he has no plans to stop his live-streamed sorcery (corporations like Facebook and Google have booked the show), he is beginning to contemplate what an in-person sequel to “Reconnected” might look like once live theater is able to safely resume. “Rather than it just being the same effects onstage, I want the live show to reflect on what the unique experience of doing the virtual show itself,” he said. He is also exploring a television series with Alan Cumming’s production company.
Hocus Focus: Mr. Suran, who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when he was in the first grade, finds performing therapeutic. The intense concentration the job requires “gave me tools that I didn’t know existed” to manage his A.D.H.D., he said. “I’m never as undistracted as I am when I’m aware of audience attention.”