Jay Owenhouse has a college degree in clinical psychology, but the magic of illusion always held more interest than head games.
He'll bring his Dare to Believe magic show to the Tri-Cities on Sept. 12 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. The show includes making real tigers disappear, and one lucky -- or unlucky -- audience member will be sawed in half and live to tell about it.
Owenhouse brings a sister act of Bengal tigers into his show, a royal white tiger named Shekinah and a beautiful orange tiger named Sheena. The ticket price range includes a package where people can have a meet and greet with the magician and tigers.
"I first got interested in magic as a 4-year-old, and performed my first show in the sixth grade," Owenhouse told the Herald in a recent phone interview. "After I saw a Doug Henning magic show when I was a freshman, I was hooked."
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Even though he earned a college degree, it was magic that ultimately led to his career. And his show has always been a family affair, touring all over the world, where it became a favorite in China and Japan. In 2008, his show was awarded the "best touring family show in Asia," he said.
"When I made elephants disappear, they were mesmerized," Owenhouse said.
The show included wife Susan as his main assistant and their five children helping out. But in 2009, Susan died from cancer, and the illusions came to a halt.
"When my wife died, I spent the next four years regrouping, trying to figure out what I was going to do," Owenhouse said. "But the kids and I worked through it."
His oldest daughter Juliana, 19, took over for her mother as his assistant. Oldest son John, 24, acts as the illusion engineer and Peter, 22, takes care of sound and video. The youngest Christina, 10, helps with some of the illusion tricks.
The family lives on a Montana ranch when not touring, where they raised their now full-grown tigers since they were cubs. And tigers are not easy to train, either.
"The tigers are very much a part of our show, but because they are at the top of the food chain, you can't coerce them into anything," Owenhouse said. "They must be trained with love and reward. And my kids had a hand in raising them too."
Owenhouse will show the audience a video of raising the tigers during his show, because besides illusion, he is devoted to keeping the big cats from extinction.
He donates a portion of the proceeds from his shows to the Corbett Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting the dwindling tiger population in India.
"It's possible tigers in the wild could be extinct in 40 years if something isn't done to protect them now," he said. "There are less than 3,000 in the wild today."
Though the tigers are an exciting part of the show, it's Owenhouse's magical illusion that will keep the audience enthralled.
Tickets to the show range from $36 to $46 and $74 for the VIP ticket that includes a meet and greet with Owenhouse and his tigers. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com or at the Toyota Center box office.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org