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When seated in one of Jay Owenhouse's shows, it's a completely different experience from seeing it on TV: Owenhouse hangs upside down, over the stage and inside two 1,200-pound steel jaws as the rope holding them apart is set on fire.

"It's easy to get detached when you see it on TV, but you feel the intensity of it live," Owenhouse said. "It's dangerous, and I've been injured twice, but for me it's worth it to be able to give the experience of wonder and awe."

Owenhouse plans to give that experience again at his show at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Friday night, part of his "Dare to Believe" tour.

Owenhouse is a world-renowned magician who can be seen on the Fox TV show "Magic on the Edge" and on the TV special "Masters of Illusion." But to him, there's nothing like seeing a magic show in person.

"For this tour, it's a collection of my favorite things I've done over the past 25 years," Owenhouse said. "Some of it is old, some of it is new, and we still have a Harry Houdini-style escape with the Jaws of Death."

Owenhouse's show also features two twin Bengal tigers: a Royal white tiger Shekinah and an orange tiger Sheena. Owenhouse said that adding them into the show was as much about supporting animal conservation as it was his love for working with animals.

"They're on the verge of extinction in the wild," Owenhouse said. "There are 3,500, and most think they'll be gone by 2022. And the only threat to them is poaching, so we want to spread awareness and dramatically reduce the animals being poached."

Part of the proceeds from the show's VIP experience will go to two animal sanctuaries in India.

Owenhouse said that he fell in love with magic when he saw a magician perform at his sister's birthday party when he was 4 years old.

"In grade school, my mom took me to the library to get books on magic," Owenhouse said. "She took me to a magic shop when I was in sixth grade, I performed throughout high school, and it stayed an active hobby."

Owenhouse went to Montana State University, studying psychology, and was set to go to grad school to become a psychologist when he hit a "fork in the road" and decided he'd rather do what he loved for a living.

"It started small, with shopping malls on weekends, but it built up from there," Owenhouse said.

As his show grew more popular, Owenhouse had the opportunity to travel the world, including a 2008 tour of China and Japan where he received the "Best Touring Family Show in Asia" award. 

"It was probably the biggest personal growth experience I had," Owenhouse said. 

In Japan, Owenhouse performed 70 shows with an interpreter. Because the sentence structure in Japanese is different than in English and interpreters must rethink everything he said, it forced Owenhouse to improve his communication skills.

"I had to focus more on communicating in a nonverbal way," Owenhouse said. "It really caused me to grow in my ability to communicate with the audience without relying on words."

That also helped him find his stride and shift the show from "fooling people for two hours" to inspiring people to see the illusions as a metaphor.

"I want to make people realize they can make their dreams come true in this show, that anything is possible," Owenhouse said. "When we're kids, we all have that sense of wonder and think we can do anything we dream about, but we give that up."

Owenhouse said that he found that people everywhere, from Japan to the U.S., want to be inspired, and that he hopes to do that again for Rapid City.

"That's why we call it 'Dare to Believe,'" Owenhouse said. "It's about inspiring people to realize anything is possible."

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Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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