Shawn Farquhar says he was born to be a magician.
"When I was born, the doctor slapped me and I said, 'Pick a card,'" the 50-year-old Maple Ridge resident mused.
Farquhar, who headlines Canada Cultural Day this Saturday (Sept. 29) at the ACT, feels fortunate to be doing what he loves for a living - and he's been doing it for close to three decades.
According to Farquhar's bio, his magic has been seen on TV shows like the X-Files and Highlander, in motion pictures like Spooky House and the Fly II, for corporate clients like IBM and Konica, and on cruise vessels such as Norwegian Star and Radiance of the Seas.
Quite a resume for an entertainer who learned from a man he considers to be a master - his father.
Farquhar remembers successfully executing his first magic at five years old. It involved a small box and a vanishing banana. He stood in front of a full-length mirror and performed the trick over and over again.
"I was almost fooling myself," Farquhar told the TIMES from Spain, where he was performing at a festival. "My dad gave me the best piece of advice: Remember how you feel now because as a magician you'll never feel that way again."
By the time he was nine, Farquhar had set up a theatre in his backyard and charged neighbourhood kids a nickel each to see him perform.
After he graduated from high school in Victoria, Farquhar said he "won a bunch of contests in California" and received an invitation to perform in Japan.
"It blossomed from there," he said. "I've tried other things but I was born to do this."
Farquhar describes himself as a "multi-purpose" magician.
"I try to do everything," he said. "You'll see grand illusions like putting a girl in a box and stabbing it with swords and floating a person in the air, then passing a hoop [through] so he or she can feel the sensation of floating in the air."
He also has a card trick, named "Shape of my Heart" that he claims, "you won't see anywhere else in the world."
The trick has almost 850,000 views on YouTube.
His perception of magic has changed through the years. As a young entertainer, he liked the ability to fool people.
"Now it's what I get from watching people experience my magic. People are looking for reasons to escape, laugh, and have a good time," Farquhar said. "You begin as a trickster, then you reach the point where you no longer want to trick people - you want them to experience magic and have a look of joy on faces."
Making memories is the secret to being a good magician and entertainer, Farquhar said.
"First and foremost you must be a good performer," he said. "You have to have good hand-eye coordination and you need discipline to learn many of the techniques. You have to do something thousands of times until you don't think about it anymore."
"You try to take the audience on a ride," he continued. "You don't want them to go, 'Wow, I was fooled; wow, I was fooled; wow, I was fooled.' I want people to have a personal connection with me.
Farquhar said he's always evolving as a magician. He considers magic to be an art form, no different than painting or music.
"Do you think van Gogh was perfect at what he did, or Monet? Art is ever-changing," he said. "I'm not the magician I was five years and can't imagine being the magician I was 10 years ago. I hope in five years I can look back and laugh. [Magic] is such a changing craft. It's an art form."
In September 1984, Farquhar turned this art form into a full time occupation.
He said, "I put a plaque on a bus stop that said, 'Today Shawn said to hell with it, I'm never going to work again.'"
More recently, Farquhar bought a home in Maple Ridge two years ago and fell in love with the community.
"I plan to be buried here," Farquar said.
There was a time when he could have called Las Vegas, what many might consider the Holy Grail for entertainer, home.
But during a very short stint in Sin City, he quickly realized it wasn't for him.
"I signed a three-year contract and lasted three weeks," he said. "A few people go see a specific show but 90 per cent of the people are 'comp'd' shows because they lost too much money. It's not a great audience - people are either angry or tired. I always thought it was my Holy Grail but when I got there I was very disillusioned."
Las Vegas might not have been the ideal place to raise his daughter Hannah, now 11 and attending Grade 7 at Maple Ridge Elementary.
"Hannah has been to 42 countries around the world with my wife Lori and I," Farquhar said. "She spent the first six years of her life living on a cruise ship. Every day she woke up in a new country it was a new playground."
Farquhar said he has spent 21 years on cruise ships.
He finally decided to plant stakes somewhere when his daughter asked if she could go to a real school.
Hannah is also a natural born entertainer. She's done an eight-minute magic act during her dad's shows.
"She's not shy in the least," Farquhar said. "She lights up the stage. I fear when I'm older I'll be remembered as Hannah's dad."
Canada Cultural Day helps celebrate The ACT's 10th Anniversary season launch. From 1-4, the ACT hosts free demonstrations and workshops, free entertainment, cake and arts group displays.
At 4 p.m. the season begins with Farquhar's show, Secrets. Tickets are $10 for students/children and $20 for adults/seniors.
Purchase tickets to Farquhar's Secrets show online at www.theactmapleridge.org/buy-tickets, by calling 604-476-2787, or in person at The ACT ticket office, which is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.