Jay Owenhouse couldn’t get away from his family if he wanted to. Thankfully for all involved, he’s happy for them to be around.
"They are all a part of the show, in one way or another," said Owenhouse, an illusionist, magician and escape artist who will bring his Dare to Believe to United Wireless Arena on Friday, September 23. "In 2008, my family just finished a successful tour of Asia and my wife, Susan, wasn’t feeling well.
"We found out she had a rare autoimmune disease and she passed away in 2009. It was devastating to my family and I shut down for a little while. My children are the ones who came to me and told me it was time to return to what I love to do best."
Since, the family has been together for every show. Oldest son John is the main assistant on stage, son Peter runs the sound and video for the show, oldest daughter Juliana is an assistant on stage and daughter Christina, who is 12, is also a stage assistant.
"We travel for weekend shows." Owenhouse said. "We travel, play shows and are back in Montana by Sunday night.
"It allows all of my children to be involved."
Owenhouse’s tigers are every bit as important to the show as his children are.
"I’ve wanted to work with animals for a long time and really want to help save tigers," Owenhouse said. "I really wanted a white tiger for a while, but we waited because the genetics have weakened. An offspring of two white tigers has an 80 percent chance of being orange, because white isn’t albino, it’s a recessive genetic trait.
"So, we waited and about 6 years ago, I got Skekinah, a pure white Bengal tiger, and Sheena, who is her twin sister, but a traditional Bengal tiger."
The two tigers are cared for at Owenhouse’s Montana tiger sanctuary when they are not traveling for shows.
"It’s another reason we work just weekend shows September through May," the magician said. "We want to make sure we don’t overwork the tigers.
"We respect the tigers and we do positive reinforcement for what they do. The tigers are not props for our show, they are an integral part of it."
As part of the VIP package offered by Owenhouse is a chance to meet the magician and get close to the tigers during a pre-show.
"Part of the proceeds of the pre-show go towards preserving tigers in the wild," Owenhouse said. "There are probably less than 300 in the wild and many experts believe they will be extinct by 2022.
"The conservation efforts protect wild tigers and their habitat."
Owenhouse’s show brings together many of the magician’s favorite elements of fans throughout the years, including a Harry Houdini stunt with a twist.
"We call it the Jaws of Death," he said. "I am hung by my ankles, 15 feet in the air and in a straight jacket.
"I have 2 minutes to escape. We added spring-loaded jaws kept apart by a piece of rope and the rope burns through in 2 minutes. It’s dangerous.
"To be honest, I was looking forward to changing out the escape, but people love it, so we’re keeping it for another year. I’ve been injured three times in the last 18 months with the escape, so, it’s going to be dangerous."
The show in Dodge City will the magician’s first of the new tour. He’s looking forward to starting a new tradition in the community.
"The first show in a new location is always the hardest," he said. "People want to see a good magic show, but they really don’t want to see a bad magic show.
"So, what we’ve done is go somewhere year-after-year and build a following, changing the show about 40 percent each time. Once we get fans to see our show, they come back. That’s what we want to do in Dodge City — have a great show and have fans who talk up the show so it’s bigger in the future."
Owenhouse’s show on Friday, Sept. 23 begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling the United Wireless Arena box office at 620-371-7880.