The Evason's "Secrets of Performing Internationally" Podcast Interview
What We'll Explore
Through the experience of performing in over 35 countries with multiple passports, the Evasons share their international travel tips to ease the complexities of border crossings, work visas, vaccinations, respecting local customs, medications, and more.
Who are The Evasons?
The Evasons are one of the most well-known mentalist acts in the world. They have performed in over 35 countries, appeared on multiple TV networks including NBC, FOX, CBS, Discovery Channel, CW Network, and Amazon Prime. Magicians most likely will recognize them from their appearances on "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" and from the famous World's Greatest Magic series from the '90s.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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Christian Painter: On this episode of the Magic Business Podcast...
Jeff Evason: Travel with Imodium, and sleep aids, and, you know, have your medications.
Tessa Evason: That's a really good point.
Jeff Evason: Gotta have that and everything you might need. We're like a little pharmacy.
Christian Painter: Welcome to the Magic Business Podcast, where we share insightful and delightful inner secrets about the business of magic. This is where magic professionals present their real-life experiences and some of their most guarded secrets to help further your career in the magical arts. I'm your host, Christian Painter, in partnership with the MagicOracle.Club, where you can hear all of our Magic Business podcasts.
The Evasons are one of the most well-known mentalist acts in the world. They have performed in over 35 countries, appeared on multiple TV networks including NBC, FOX, CBS, Discovery Channel, CW Network, and Amazon Prime. Magicians most likely will recognize them from their appearances on "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" and from the famous World's Greatest Magic series from the '90s. They work all over the world in various markets. Welcome to the show, Tessa and Jeff.
Jeff Evason: Welcome. It's great to be here. You should probably just call us Jeffsa.
Tessa Evason: Yeah. It's such a tongue twister. It's so good to be with you, Christian.
Christian Painter: Well, I'm excited to talk with you guys, and already preshow, I have learned a great deal about you guys. Like I did not know that Jeff was Canadian and you were American. But that's not true at all.
Tessa Evason: No.
Christian Painter: Well, kind of true.
Tessa Evason: Kind of true, yeah.
Christian Painter: Can you give us the background because as we roll in that world travel, that's kind of important for the people to understand where you guys come from?
Jeff Evason: Tessa has five passports and nowhere to go presently other than just back and forth. I was born in Canada. I'm Canadian by birth. Tessa, by the time she moved to Canada and got a Canadian passport, that was her fourth passport. She was born in England.
Tessa Evason: That's right. And then my parents are from St. Lucia and Grenada, and I spent various years there growing up and then Canada. I lived in Canada when I was young, moved to the Caribbean again, and then back to Canada in '83, no '82, and then met Jeff in 1983. So that's the short version of it all.
Jeff Evason: And we worked in Canada for almost 20 years before we moved to the U.S. and eventually became citizens of the U.S.A. So I'm currently dual passports, two passports. Tessa still maintains now up to five passports.
Tessa Evason: Well, I don't maintain them all. But, you know, Canada and the U.S. because those are the countries that I spent most of my time in so that's all I really need.
Christian Painter: Well this, even more, makes you the experts on what we're about to talk about, which is world travel and traveling to perform in shows. But let's start with just the fact that you started out as Canadian citizens, correct? And then gained American citizenship?
Tessa Evason: That's right.
Jeff Evason: Yeah. We worked in the U.S. under work visas for a number of years. We had an agent that you had for a while, Bob Kramer. Bob Kramer contacted us after we did "The World's Greatest Magic." Bob had a huge college agency up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Tessa Evason: Probably one of the biggest in the U.S.A., yeah.
Jeff Evason: And after he saw the show, he called a day or two later and asked if we'd like to work colleges in the U.S. And we had worked colleges in Canada and thought, "Well, what's the big deal?" Because in Canada, they're fun. They're great. But it's a whole different ballgame and I think the really noticeable part is drinking age in Canada is 19 versus 21. So if we're working inside a Canadian college, most often it would be a nooner, and if it is a nighttime show, it's gonna take place in their bar, their pub atmosphere. But even if it's a 12-noon show, they still have beer on the table at college.
Tessa Evason: Which is quite disconcerting, even though we know that. It's very strange to be doing a show at that time of the day for people that have had a few drinks.
Christian Painter: But now coming down to America, you just don't get to drive across the border and go do shows, correct?
Jeff Evason: Well, we did that for years. You know, it's tougher now. I don't think you could get away with it these days. But back then, you know, we would...
Tessa Evason: I don't think it was as hard and I think that, you know, Canada and U.S. had a good relationship so they weren't great sticklers at it for a while, but then that changed.
Jeff Evason: There is always that point where, you know, you get the wrong guy at the border that asks the right questions and then got you. There was one time we were going to work at an event in New York City and we were also tying that in with Monday Night Magic so when the customs officer asked where we were headed, we said, "New York. We're doing this free event, Monday Night Magic," where they basically, essentially, provide us with parking because the parking isn't free. But he asked, "Well, does anybody in the theater get paid? If you don't get paid, does anybody that works there get paid?" And I kind of hesitated a moment and said, "Well, probably the lighting, sound, waitresses." And that was it. He said, "Then, you can't work in that venue."
Tessa Evason: We should have known that was a trick question but never heard it before so.
Jeff Evason: So we pulled around and two hours later, we tried again, thinking, "Okay, new shift." And then we got friends of my father, because it was a border town. It was the town I grew up in. And he recognized me and didn't even ask any questions. He said, "Hey, have a good trip." So we got through. It happened again a second time. And it was unfortunate the second time because we had a U.S. client that hired us to work trade shows and the owner of the company was having his 89th or 90th birthday party in Atlanta. I think one of her secretaries, wasn't she, Donna, called up and said, "Would you come and work at Fred's birthday? We're having a celebration with clients." And we said, "Yeah. It would be great." It wasn't really a paid gig. We're just gonna go down, have fun at the party, and maybe do a couple of second sight effects with the guests.
Tessa Evason: Yeah. It was an honor to do that. They've hired us for many shows and Donna, actually, her father was a magician. So she knew all the greats in the magic so we have this great, you know, camaraderie, so it was going to be a fun thing.
Jeff Evason: Well, to save money, we lived in Toronto at the time, we said we'll fly to Buffalo, which is a short drive and probably half the price of flights. Got to the border. The agent asked where we were headed. We said we're going to a party. Everything was true. Asked if we had any of the props that we would use in the show and I said, "No. I just have a pack of cards." And that was it. He said, "You've got a pack of cards. You have tools of your trade. We're denying you entry."
Christian Painter: Holy cow.
Jeff Evason: It was crazy because I said, "Well, what if I just use cards, I practice all the time." He said, "It doesn't matter. You have them with you." "So if I was a singer and I have my voice," and he said, "Look. We can either discuss this here or you can turn away and there'll be nothing on your record or we can take it inside and then you've got something on your record that will be a mark forever." So we said, "No, we'll just leave."
Tessa Evason: Okay, we got it. We're out of here.
Jeff Evason: But we had to call the client and say, "We've got two tickets, flights," but we're non-refundable by that point so.
Tessa Evason: So that was our lesson. We realized that we had to handle this differently and we need to find a pathway that worked and got us to our gigs without any stress and without being turned away. And I guess that's when we started getting those visas, right.
Jeff Evason: That's when Bob Kramer called and the timing was perfect because, you know, Bob, he had the bookings. He could give you a whole year's worth of dates in advance. So that was enough to get a one-year visa and that started the ball rolling.
Tessa Evason: That's the important point for those visas, you know. You have to get the visas based on you actually having bookings, or reserved dates, or dates on hold. Something that they can see that you actually have work that's coming up. Otherwise, if you just try to get a visa without guaranteed work of some kind, then it's not gonna work out for you.
Christian Painter: Wow. And so, when did you guys solve the problem by just saying, "We're just gonna be citizens of the United States as well?"
Jeff Evason: We would renew our visas every year for maybe three or four years and I can't remember the fee but let's say $50, $100, $2000 to get work visas, and it was fine. But we always had to have the dates. And then we started thinking, "We're not gonna stay with this agency. We want to move and maybe go on our own." But we didn't have that luxury of having those years, that one-year solid booking in advance so we contacted a friend of ours, Greg Frewin. He had used an attorney, an immigration lawyer out of Las Vegas. We would call that lawyer and he told us, "Here's what you have to do. You have to have some recognition, international, maybe some awards." I think we had one award by that point from the PEA.
Tessa Evason: Yeah, the Dunninger Award.
Jeff Evason: And it just wasn't in mentalism. That's not really our world to get awards. There's not a lot available to us so we thought, "Well, okay." And he said, "You know, at this point, if you apply today, you'll probably have a 60/40 chance to get in. But if you can gather up a better portfolio of awards and you got to get letters from people..." And so that just started it. Rich Bloch had called to invite us to perform, just to hire us to perform at a magic convention called the World Magic Seminar which was in Las Vegas every year at that point.
Tessa Evason: Yes. It used to be the Desert Seminar in Washington, D.C. and then he joined forces with Siegfried & Roy and that's when it became the World Magic Seminar.
Jeff Evason: And part of that convention, Siegfried & Roy would be there in attendance. Their names were associated with it. And they would give away awards. They had two big awards, the People's Choice Award and the SARMOTI Award. The SARMOTI Award was just Siegfried & Roy picking their favorite act of the convention. And both awards were $5,000 cash prize. One of them was a trophy. SARMOTI Award was a painting from Siegfried & Roy's of their cats. And so, we didn't win the People's Choice and without it, well, that's it. Oh well, I should back up a little bit. When we were taking the booking, Tessa said to Rich, "You know, we have an idea, Rich. We're applying for this Green Card and we need awards. Can we enter the competition instead of you hiring us? Can we compete?" He said, "Come on, it's a magic convention. Mentalists don't win. You won't do very well. Just take the money." But, we don't know. This is part of the plan. After the show, we were sitting up in the back of the theater thinking, "Well, that's it. We get no money and no award. We're going home." And Obie O'Brien came running through the theater looking for us, "There you are. You two, we need you backstage now." It was during the awards presentation and we thought at that point, "Oh, are we getting something?" And it turns out we got the SARMOTI Award from Siegfried & Roy.
Christian Painter: Oh, nice.
Jeff Evason: So that was a big one. And they helped us. They wrote a beautiful letter, petitioning for us to get Green Cards. And then we got something else, a few other things along the way but that was enough to get the citizenship.
Christian Painter: I don't think Americans understand what our Canadian friends are going through to come down and perform. I mean, definitely kind of do that so I'm getting a much better appreciation. So what you're telling me, it's not easy.
Jeff Evason: I tell you, we didn't realize when we got our Green Cards, we didn't understand at the time. We thought a Green Card was a permanent work visa. And it is a big deal. A visa is not so difficult but a Green Card is. And we just thought, "Well, a Green Card is a permanent work visa so we won't have to apply and go through this ritual every year." And when we did our meetings with the Consulate, the fellow said, "Okay. We're going to approve you. And when will you be moving?" And we're living in Toronto at the time. Had no plans to move to the U.S. "No, we're not moving. We're gonna stay here." He said, "Oh, no. You misunderstand. You have a year to move to the U.S."
Tessa Evason: So get packing.
Jeff Evason: It's a residency. It's not a work visa. You know, we were just so uneducated at the time about the process, I guess, that we...
Tessa Evason: Sure. Just didn't do enough reading and all the details. Like who likes to read all that stuff but we learned from that for sure. But you know, that was an incredible experience and I think, I'm sure Americans know this but really, America, you know, to entertainers is like one big Hollywood. That's the place to go to get all the shows, to get the amazing work, to get to television, to get the recognition that the world recognizes. So it's the country right next door to Canada and if you can make it across, then that's great. It's really cool.
One of the interesting things when we were getting our visa, our Green Cards I should say, to live in the United States, we ended up getting split up for our interview. And in my interview, after he told me that I was approved, he said, "I have one question for you." And I go, "What?" And he says, "Did you ever meet Blackstone, Harry Blackstone Jr.?" And I was like, "Wow." He says "He's always been my idol. I just love him. I saw his shows as a boy." And I thought, "How cool is that?" That would be the last place you'd expect somebody to ask you about magic. So I spent quite a bit of time talking to him about magic until, of course, he has to move on to the next person. But it was a great way to sort of throw me forward. So I got my Green Card and it was just a good feeling that magic has done so much for us. It was really awesome.
Christian Painter: Wow. So, you have finally done it. You now actually become citizens and now, you can go back and forth across that border with no problem, I hope.
Jeff Evason: If you're a citizen of either country, you can't be denied access to your country. Yeah, it's been fairly easy back and forth. Well, we just sold our place in the U.S. so at this point, we don't have a place there.
Tessa Evason: You were about to say we're homeless in the U.S.A.
Christian Painter: While you're looking for your next spot, let's broaden this out because you guys do travel all over the world. So tell me some things that probably your standard...let's say a younger magician coming up and right now, he's doing a lot of shows, maybe within the United States but he's looking like, "Oh, I want to work in Australia, or Europe, or something." What are the challenges that he's gonna run into or he or she is gonna run into when they start to do international travel?
Tessa Evason: One of the most important things is getting their work visa for that specific country, and of course, everything is online. But some countries can take quite a bit of time and process. I know you would think the client who had booked you would be assisting you with getting that visa but that seldom happens. You usually have to do all the legwork yourself. And so, really, for a lot of those countries, if you really think that booking is coming through, it's good to get the process started early. And a lot of those countries allow you when you get that visa, the visa will last you for either a few months or even up to a year, depending on what the visa is and what you paid for it. You know, so often, we don't think we're gonna be returning to a country but we have had the incidents where, yes, because we got the one booking that we came back for another booking, so that's something to consider.
Jeff Evason: But we've used a service. There are services in the U.S.A. that will... I'm sure they're everywhere. We use a place out of Washington, D.C. and they're online and they will do all that paperwork for you. Just saves time and they've done it before. They've got the expertise so. There's a little bit of a premium you pay for that, but then you're just billing that back to the client in the end, right, so.
Christian Painter: Oh, okay then. Yeah, that's great. What a great idea. Just let someone else handle that. There could be places where when you apply for a visa, they might want other things. Maybe a vaccination record or something like that, correct?
Tessa Evason: So you have to have all your paperwork ready so even if they're doing the filling out of the forms, you're still going to give them all that information. So you still have a process to go through. It's just that I think you feel more comfortable and more confident that it's gonna go through and they'll cut back on your time because they have the answers to the questions that you will be asking as you go through the process yourself.
Jeff Evason: It's so much of a second nature but you mentioned vaccination but it's true. There's quite a number of vaccinations that you must have. But if we work on cruise ships and that's just a natural flow of things to have that little vaccination booklet that we all have to keep that updated so I think there's been very... I don't think of a time that we haven't already had the vaccination that's required to go on a corporate gig, a land gig because of the ships.
Tessa Evason: That's right. But I think what the ships do... Whereas before, they just said you needed to have those vaccinations. They didn't always check. We found in the last couple of years that they actually wanted you to provide proof of this, depending on where you're going to, where you're traveling to.
Jeff Evason: But if you're an animal act, there's a whole different thing. We're so lucky that it's, you know, our actors, we don't have a lot of props. We don't have to deal with freight because therein lies a whole other set of challenges and logistics involved in getting freight and crate and boxes for an illusion act, so much different. And then if it's a bird act on top of that, I don't know what they go through. I can't imagine that. You know, we used to do an illusion act. We used to do a bird act. And I know we worked in Mexico once and the challenges to get doves to Mexico were impossible. We didn't have the time.
Christian Painter: Okay. That is fascinating itself that you guys did a bird act.
Jeff Evason: Yeah, we did.
Christian Painter: Wow. Now, here's a question we'd like to ask because right now, you guys are the oracle so you know everything. Well, I know you won't say you know everything but from that standpoint, you know so much more about all the traveling international. But what's one question that people never ask you about this, but probably should ask you when it comes to traveling internationally?
Jeff Evason: Well, don't ask us how to travel light because that's something we have yet to achieve. We travel with way too much luggage. But what's a good question...
Tessa Evason: I was thinking, especially for women, because it seems to affect us more than men, is the attire that you're going to be wearing in the country you're going to, is it appropriate? Are you going to be able to make them feel comfortable with the way you're dressed?
Jeff Evason: So true.
Tessa Evason: And, you know, just as we travel too heavy, but I was glad that I did. We did a show in Qatar, probably about four, five years ago now. And I thought what I had was appropriately covering my body up but it wasn't. The makeup artist was there and she said, "You're not wearing that on stage, are you? I'm like, "Ah, yes." And she said, "You're gonna need something else, something more." I actually had a pantsuit on because I knew that that would be appropriate with a long jacket, so I knew I was covered. But I had a little bit open on the top of my chest. Nothing much really. And she was absolutely, "No chest." And I just happen to have this lace undergarment that I put, that I put ahead as a collar and that covered me. She goes, "That will work." And Jeff came around the corner and saw what I was wearing, and I just said, "Don't say a word, okay." But you know, what was interesting about it, they did a videotape and I actually looked great on the videotape, which I felt so uncomfortable there. But I've learned along the way is in advance, what do they want you to wear? What do they wear? What are you not supposed to wear? I know we want to be who we are when we go to these other countries but I think you really have to respect, you know, their religion and the way they live. I don't find it that hard to do. I don't mind covering my head if I know that it's an important thing to do. But I don't know if everybody will be comfortable doing that. So that's something to consider. Go ahead. Do your research on that.
Christian Painter: That is a fantastic bit of advice and something I don't think people would even think about, right. We think about, "Oh, this is my costume." But you don't think about, "Oh, but I'm gonna be in this different culture."
Jeff Evason: Yeah, and we've done quite a number of shows in the Middle East. And I think Qatar was a little different but it's always a learning experience.
Tessa Evason: Yeah. I mean, they were very wonderful to us, we have to say that. They were very welcoming to us and so, it's not that they did anything to me to make me feel uncomfortable. I just knew there were some rules. I just didn't realize I didn't quite meet them all. I thought I had.
Jeff Evason: Travel with Imodium, and sleep aids, and, you know, have your medications.
Tessa Evason: That's a really good point.
Jeff Evason: Gotta have that and everything you might need. We're like a little pharmacy. We have a bag of, you know, anything that we have used or may have to ever use in the future. It's a big Ziploc bag full of everything, from antibiotics to...
Tessa Evason: Unless you're going to Mexico, then you're covered.
Jeff Evason: Then you can get it, yeah. It's over the counter.
Tessa Evason: You can get everything you need a prescription for in America. In North America, you don't need that. It's over the counter there so you're covered.
Jeff Evason: But our suitcase had, like, we had a white noise machine for sleep because you never know what you're gonna get into at the hotel location. I'm not a really light sleeper but, you know, I'm so accustomed to a certain amount of quietness that we get in our bedroom at home or in most situations but sometimes, you get on a ship where you're in a cabin where the room is rattling, something in that room is rattling all night long, just enough to keep you up or for me, anyhow.
Tessa Evason: Or even a hotel, you know, where we get booked in a city right downtown, even if you're in a high floor, sometimes the noise makes its way up.
Jeff Evason: So our little white noise machine has been great for that. We have tags locked in our suitcase. You know, our suitcases are packed. They're always ready to go and they're always by the front door. And they've been that way since March 14th. We got home the 14th of March. And the suitcases are still packed and ready to go. But on the suitcase, an act on a ship told me this once, on eBay, you could order these little tags. They are an embroidered tag. It's that webbing material so they're very heavy duty. They last. I've got, on all our suitcases, this orange, like an embroidered tag, it says priority.
Tessa Evason: Somewhat like webbing, yeah.
Jeff Evason: The only word you can get anywhere is your name or what have you but I just ordered them with the word priority. It looks to the airline handler like, "Oh, this is a priority," because we're not always on our airline of choice. And it has helped, I should touch wood, but I have yet to have a bag not make it on the flight since having those on the bags.
Christian Painter: Wow.
Jeff Evason: Yeah, really good tip because, you know, on a ship, you get to the port and the ship is sailing within a few hours of your arrival. If the bag doesn't make it, there's a really good chance that that's it. You're not gonna see your bag for the rest of the week because it will never catch up to you at the following ports.
Tessa Evason: That's very true. And here's another real quick tip. If you land in your airport and a piece of luggage is missing, and of course, you have to fill up your claims and everything, the person you want to treat the best is the person at the lost baggage department. I mean, the person on the ground at the airport because as you can imagine, all those people deal with all day long is someone being irate at them. So you treat them your absolute best and then you do your best to get the phone number that's at their desk. Because otherwise, you're gonna be calling an 800 number and you won't know much. But if you've got the number right there, you can get to that person, get their name, and find out who's gonna be on next. We just get a lot of information. And that way, we get the help that we need. Because, you know, sometimes, we're traveling from one place to the next and we can't afford to have that piece of luggage, you know, not making it because we're flying out to, you know, from New Zealand back to America, whatever it is. So that's a real good tip. Trust me, it’s important.
Christian Painter: That is brilliant. I will tell you that just sounds brilliant. Well, Jeff, Tessa, we've come to the end of the show. This has been fantastic. You guys have given so much great stuff, not only great information but I think for people who are looking ahead, maybe one day want to travel internationally, you've definitely let them know what they're gonna be getting into.
Jeff Evason: Well, I just can't believe it's over already. It feels like we've just started but this has been fun. It's always fun to talk with you.
Tessa Evason: It's been great so thanks for giving us the opportunity to give some tips to the folks out there.
Christian Painter: Thank you for listening to our Magic Business Podcast. Please visit the MagicOracle.Club where you can hear all of our Magic Business podcasts and enjoy a vast array of additional magical knowledge.
We'd like to leave you with this quote, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page," Saint Augustine.
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