Hocus Pocus

Parksville duo hope to magically appear in Seattle for convention

Sisters Heather and Sandra McNeill perform at Ballenas Secondary School’s Whalebone Theatre Nov. 3 to raise money for a trip south of the border to the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians Conference next summer.

Sisters Heather and Sandra McNeill perform at Ballenas Secondary School’s Whalebone Theatre Nov. 3 to raise money for a trip south of the border to the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians Conference next summer.


he world of magic is steeped in history and while the industry is dominated by men that hasn’t deterred two Parksville girls from taking their stage show to the next level and the sister act is well on its way to making a magic career appear out of thin air.

Heather and Sandra McNeill began performing magic tricks at the early ages of seven and nine. Now, almost 10 years later, the pair are determined to make a career out of creating illusions.

Eighteen-year-old Heather and 17-year-old Sandra are presenting The Magic of Zanthera in the Whalebone Theatre at Ballenas Secondary School Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

They are performing an hour and a half long evening magic show to raise funds so they can attend the annual Pacific Coast Association of Magicians Convention next summer.

The Seattle convention will not be the girls’ first, rather their fourth where they will learn, gain experience and prepare for their chosen career.

They said it is their goal to achieve the highest standards in skill and presentation and conventions like these are like university for magicians.


“It is quite a big deal. The amount of information and knowledge so widely and freely given out is enormous,” said Sandra.

The pair said magicians from the entire Pacific coast, including Japan and Australia, will be in attendance and there are lectures and workshops presented by many well known and respected magicians on a wide variety of topics.

Their skills will also be put to the test in a competition against other magicians from around the world.  In past years the girls have won silver and gold medals and placed top three in their age category.  This year they will be competing in stage and platform magic in the adult category.

The duo’s passion for magic was sparked after they performed a three-and-a-half minute show to earn a creating and performing badge when they were in Brownies.

“Our leader who had been guiding for 18 years said it was the most amazing Brownie badge she had ever seen so she got us to perform for another group and then it just snowballed,” said Heather.

Sandra added, “One of the moms asked us if we did birthday shows and we said sure and then we started doing those.”

Since then they have performed all over the Island.

Being able to create illusions and execute mind-boggling tricks is a cool way to make a living and both girls agree it is the career for them because they love performing magic and seeing people’s reactions.

Magic is all about illusion and agility and making people believe what you want them to see and the two admit the profession is very competitive and to this day is still geared towards men who perform with a female assistant.

“We work equally and share the stage.  It is more difficult for us because we have to change everything,” Sandra said. “A lot of the things are made for guys who are the majority in the world of magic … everything is tailored to a guy who does the magic with an assistant who carries the stuff.  That doesn’t work for us. Everything we do has to be changed so it is different from what you would see anybody else doing.”

Although magical knowledge is often well-guarded, the two said anyone can buy or copy a magic trick but that isn’t enough to make you a magician. The art of magic is about creating illusions and creativity is the key to impressing their audience.

“Sometimes at conventions you will see something and think it is cool. If you buy the effect, then that is fine but if you copy word for word it is looked down upon,” said Sandra.

Heather added, “We put our own spin on it. Creativity is a big thing.”

The best place to practice they said is in front of the mirror because it doesn’t lie but they do test out new routines in front of family and friends.

Heather said she admires Lance Burton who is considered one of the best magicians in the world and she would love to see one of his performances live.

When the girls perform their show this week they will not be sawing anyone in half but the audience can look forward to some big illusions.

Tickets for the show are $10 and are available at Cranky Dog Music in Parksville and both the Parksville and Qualicum Beach locations of the Mulberry Bush Bookstore.


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