Forget Romeo and Juliet. Anthony and Cleopatra. Brad and Angelina.
The relationship between Jonathan Pendragon and his wife, Charlotte, is truly magical.
Billed as The First Couple of Magic, the Pendragons have gained international renown for innovative illusions that combine art and athletic prowess with a theatrical flair. They perform Friday at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande.
"We choose things to show our personalities or our physical ability," explained Jonathan Pendragon, who met his wife as a student on the UC Irvine swim team.
Charlotte Pendragon studied ballet under legendary choreographer Eugene Loring.
Her husband, a gymnast and stage combat enthusiast, holds a degree in theater arts. He's also worked as a Hollywood stuntman -- doubling for John Belushi in "The Blues Brothers."
What unites the couple most, of course, is magic.
Over the past three decades, the Pendragons -- who live in Shell Beach -- have appeared in a dozen television specials, wowed audiences on NBC's "America's Got Talent" and performed for Queen Elizabeth II, the royal family of Monaco and former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
In 2005, the Pendragons won a place in the Guinness Book of Records for performing the world's "fastest transformation illusion." A version of Harry Houdini's "Metamorphosis," the illusion features the spouses switching places in less than a quarter of a second.
Charlotte Pendragon describes their latest show, "Magical Theatre," as "a narrative in mystery."
"Everybody can enjoy it," she added. "You can be 3 years old. You can be 90. You can speak any language. Magic's a really wonderful
What was your introduction to the world of magic?
JONATHAN: I was 9 years old. It was kind of a conspiracy actually. My teacher saw I was reading a book on Houdini and ... she said, "Why don't you look up magic tricks in the library?" So I started to read the books, and she had me perform magic tricks for the class. ...
What really set me on the right track was we moved within Fullerton to another
home. When we moved onto that block, fame was already living there -- Harry Anderson of "Night Court." Harry and I became great friends. This guy knew a lot of magic. I always joke and say, "I was 14. Harry was 16, and Harry knew more about magic than everyone I've ever met, and still does."
He gave you a great piece of advice.
JONATHAN: A lot of magicians love collecting secrets. They want to know how it's done. They don't care about anything else. Harry said, "No, no, if you're going to be a performer, that's not enough. You've got to be able to go out there and make the audience love the trick. People don't inherently like being fooled. You have to make them enjoy it."
And you, Charlotte?
CHARLOTTE: Jonathan was a magician. I fell in love with (magic) obviously because of him.
Talk about the Pendragons' unique performance style.
CHARLOTTE: Because of our interest in theater and athletics, we were able to create this new style of magic where we used our physicality, our athleticism, our stunt work to perform these feats we do -- like "Metamorphosis."
We call it "sleight of body," where we use our entire body instead of our hands.
When Jonathan and I first began putting our own show together, the style of larger-scale illusions was pretty much the magician in a suit or tuxedo putting a beautiful woman into a box...Not a lot of physical activity. The illusions were more puzzle-oriented.
All of our illusions feature the two of us ... performing feats that no one had ever accomplished. The illusions were amazing, and the fact we were a couple working together was very different. Our attire was very different.
We really changed the face of (performing magic). I think that's really a remarkable accomplishment.
CHARLOTTE: Number one, I took my shoes off. How those women could wear high heels and tights and accomplish anything, I didn't understand it. To me you could do so much more if you dressed like a gymnast or a dancer. I guess it's a big deal because a lot of magicians even today talk about "You never wore shoes."
You describe yourselves as equal partners -- onstage and off. Explain.
JONATHAN: Charlotte and I were partners from the very beginning. It just stayed that way.
When we did the illusions and magic, we came up with it together. We grew together. We learned the act together.
The norm back then was getting divorced. The norm was the magician and the lowly assistant. We didn't understand those realities. It wasn't so much that we were visionaries, but ... just tenacious artists.
We worked really hard to try to eliminate this image of the woman not being important, being an accessory. It's not true. That's a terrible stereotype that a lot of women in magic have to live down. A lot of magicians are responsible for perpetuating it.
CHARLOTTE: I was introduced to magic during (the early 1980s)....We had just come out of the '70s. It was an age of enlightenment for women.
(At that time) magicians weren't even partners with their wives or their assistants. They were, "Joe the Amazing, and Co."...
Really, we were the first ones to become famous enough and popularize the style of a couple performing magic together.
You've been married for 32 years. What's your secret?
JONATHAN: Everyone asks me that question. It's weird to me because that's all I know. I've never thought about divorce. I've never thought about any other existence.
I've always understood that you have to work at it. There's going to be great days and tough days. And it's going to be tough on both of you. ...
The ability to talk and communicate is critical, and respect is critical. Love is the easy part.
How do you approach your onstage persona?
JONATHAN: We've developed over the years a particular persona onstage that's a magnified view of ourselves. We have to find things that work well within that story-line. ...
Charlotte can paint with her hands. ... It's something she did naturally well, so we incorporated it into the show. I've got a sort of self-effacing sense of humor and I can tell stories, so we worked that into the show.
It makes the performance feel very natural...because we're not fighting type. We're not trying to do something that's way out of left field.
How have The Pendragons changed over the years? (He's 55. She's 54.)
JONATHAN: When I was younger, I saw musicians that, when they were onstage they were acting 30 years younger than they really were -- bad toupee, too much makeup, ridiculous costuming. They were old people trying to look young. That's a mistake. ...
When we decided to make (magic) our career, we realized that as we got older, we'd have to change our material. The material we were doing in our 20s, we wouldn't be doing in our 50s. ...
Charlotte and I always knew we would grow with our art.