At 19, magician Matthew Laslo has abracadabra-ed his way from performances at the Sea View Theatre in Eastsound, Orcas Island, to the main stage of The CW’s “Masters of Illusion” (8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28).
In “Masters,” he performs a variation of his T-shirt cannon routine, a trick he previously showed off on The CW’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” in 2016. He no longer rides out on a hoverboard — “The hoverboard was definitely something I gotta move on from,” he says sheepishly — but otherwise the trick remains similar.
“I had always heard about the classic ‘bullet catch’ magic trick and at that point I was 15 and I didn’t think the producers of any of these shows would allow that,” Laslo says. “So I went for the next best thing.” The trick involves shooting a deck of cards out of a T-shirt cannon, operated by his frequent assistant, Orcas Island aerialist Maria Bullock, with Laslo positioned to catch the cards.
Laslo is one of two Washington magicians featured on “Masters of Illusion” this season — Seattle’s Louie Foxx, an “America’s Got Talent” veteran, was the second; his episode already aired — and Laslo is the season’s youngest magician.
Laslo filmed his routine for “Masters” in January shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic kicked into high gear, dashing his plans for a 30-city national tour. All his equipment and props, including the T-shirt cannon, are quarantined in Portland where Laslo was rehearsing when the pandemic struck.
In June, Laslo staged a two-night, physically distanced magic show at a pop-up drive-in at Orcas Island’s Mount Baker Farm campground.
“I put together a show using all the old magic tricks lying around the house because all the [usual] props were in Portland waiting to go out on tour,” Laslo says. “So I had to think about how to do a show with stuff from the hardware store. In the end, it was so much fun. It was obviously a very different show, but I felt so lucky we could come together even if it wasn’t perfect.”
He may try to arrange another drive-in magic show in the future when possible
—live entertainment is currently not allowed under Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased reopening plan — which he’ll post about on his Instagram (instagram.com/matthewlaslomagic).
Laslo, who has no siblings, says he got into magic at 7 when his grandfather showed him a video of a magician online. He was determined to figure out how the tricks were achieved.
“I started researching and reading every book, watching every YouTube video I could find,” Laslo says. “I realized these are things I could do with stuff lying around the kitchen and I’d gather a few little props and my family in the living room and show them a trick.”
He says his parents, Donna Laslo and Jonathan White, have supported what Laslo calls his “unconventional” career choice. His mom worked in artist management, which has helped Laslo in his burgeoning career, and his father is a contractor/author.
Laslo began using his mother’s last name in his stage name after a performance when he was 11. The person reading his introduction had a printout that cut his last name in half at an inopportune page turn. Instead of being introduced as “Matthew Laslo-White, magician,” he was introduced as “Matthew Laslo, white magician!”
“That was the end of that,” he says. “Plus I like Laslo. It’s a Hungarian name and it’s got a magical thing to it. ‘White magician’ didn’t have the right sound to it.”
At 13, Laslo, who graduated from home schooling in 2019, began running the projector at the Sea View Theatre in exchange for using the theater’s stage to practice and perform magic shows, including an annual July 4 show that was canceled this year due to the pandemic.
After his “Penn & Teller” experience, Laslo traveled to China to perform on a Chinese TV show.
“That was a crazy experience performing outside my language through a translator,” he says. “It opened my eyes to how global magic is.”
Laslo is now taking online classes for a college degree but has no plans to do “the traditional, stay-in-one-place” college experience.
“Going out on the road, that’s the dream,” he says. “I want to be doing [magic] for the rest of my life or as long as I enjoy it and it’s still a passion and something I really love.”