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Shakespeare By the Bark: A Trailblazing Summer Theatre Company Readies For Its Opening Night Bow-Wows

“Peanut, your kill shake is on point, but wagging your tail doesn’t sell the emotional arc of Tybalt’s muder. Go Method…”

Gather round, doggos. They said it couldn’t be done, yet here we are! Tomorrow we open the first ever all-dog cast and crew season of Shakespeare. So give yourselves a woof of applause!

Now, some general housekeeping before today’s run-through… 

Catering has informed me that someone is still stealing din-dins from the countertop in the break room. Not going to name names, but I am looking at you Jack Russells, Danes, Whippets… I need you to be very good boys. Don’t make me put up a nanny cam!

Next, for those of you compelled to kick up the lawn after doing your business in the middle of your scenes, please clean up after yourselves before coming back onstage. Be a sweetie, wipe your feeties! I know this isn’t Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, but have some dignity, you floofs. 

Finally: No, I mean absolutely, no cell phones during rehearsal. First, it’s a distraction; and second, I just don’t think dogs should have cell phones. It’s weird. That means no more making group TikToks in the wings, Doodles. Tick-checks, yes; TikToks, no. Ah, ah! No whining! If you can sit and stay with a treat balanced on your snout for the ’gram, you can wait until break to check your pee-mail.

Okay, let’s take it from the top! 

Duke! Stop out-howling the chorus, you show-off. We all know you won a Bony Award for your work in The Hound of the Baskervilles. This is community theatre, not a showcase for your Broadway comeback!

Peanut, your kill shake is on point, but wagging your tail doesn’t sell the emotional arc of Tybalt’s muder. Go Method. Channel that afternoon you finally broke your favourite squeaky squeakums, and you went from blood-lusting hunter to sulky pupper when you realised it was the last time you’d ever hear its high-pitched eee-hoooo, eee-hoooooo

Pick 👏 up 👏 the 👏 pace 👏 through Scene V – this means you, Pugs. And Basset Hounds, if you can get your back ends all the way on stage any time before you have to make your exit, that would be great. We’ll never pull off the matinée showing unless Ray-Ray is off-stage in time for his 3pm zoomies. 

Boone?! Where’s Boone? He missed his entrance again! Can someone check to see if he’s out back eating grass?! 

Lighting Crew, can you make that spotlight look a little less like a laser pointer, please? It’s riling up the herding breeds. 

Alright, everyone except this group here, take ten! Now, I have some individual feedback for the rest of you. 

Sooo, Chico, I understand you come from a litter of nine, but we can still only offer four comp tickets per cast member. The rules are there to be obeyed, so leave it… No, I don’t care if they can all pile up on top of each other in the same chair! That’s just a flea circus waiting to happen.

Ok, Clover, your CV says you can fetch. I cast you for one role, and it’s 90% fetch. You do know that fetch means you retrieve the prop skull, and… no, you do not prance around gloating in front of the other dogs… you bring it back… that’s right, now show me your best fetch… Good girl! Ok, now drop! Noooo… Drop! Hey! Drop! Ok, that’s enough! Drop! C’mon, it’s not funny anymore… 

Slugger, outstanding work, big guy, just a couple of, erm, hygiene notes. If you could refrain from eating bacon-wrapped liver biscuits before the kissing scenes? Princess is vegan and grain-free, so you know, let’s work with her… Also, if you could try to stop drooling on Merlot’s head, you’d be doing the makeup crew a solid… 

My dear, sweet Freckles, I know you’re just being friendly, the actors know you’re just being friendly, but your boops make some of the costume crew uncomfortable. Nose boops are fine. As are shoulder boops. Anything else, though, requires consent. Tail up? Boop away. Tail tucked? Keep your boops to yourself. 

We have limited space in the playbill, GCH Lackingham Princess Prada Monaco Mojito Magnolia Dalgona-Belle, yadda, yadda, etc… – look, for your bio? Pick one: we can either list your registered show dog name and titles, or your crowdfunding stretch goals for The Vagina Doga-logues reimagined on a goat yoga farm.

Rex, I know Ophelia is your dream role. But if you don’t stop humping the leg of Hamlet’s throne, you’ll set gender-blind casting back centuries… 

What the… oh, crap! Someone get that squirrel off the stage!!! Wait, no, just one, not all of you!! Lighting! Hit the laser pointer! Redirect the pack!!! Lighting? Lighting?! Oh, c’mon, not you dogs too!! 

For Anubis’s sake, do any of you mutts have one iota of discipline?! You just destroyed the weeks of work the Mastiffs spent building the Othello set! 

Where is that evil, little, agent of chaos rodent?! Have none of you caught it yet?! Oh… 

Well… 

I mean…

Look at that fluffy… 

flashing… 

tail… 

No… 

I can’t… 

I mustn’t… 

Yes!… 

I must… 

chase!!!


Author’s Pick

Screen: Turner & Hooch. It’s a testament to the enduring legacy of this film that you can’t walk a Dogue de Bordeaux in public without someone yelling out, “Hoooooch!”

Stage: Sylvia by A.R. Gurney; Bunnicula, adapted from the books of James and Deborah Howe; and anything featuring Snoopy.

TV: Puppy Love, with Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine

Stand-Up: Ricky Gervais: Humanity

Comic: Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

Book: Cujo by Stephen King, assuming you indulge your dark side

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Mel Cronenwett

Mel Cronenwett is a freelance writer based in Texas and Michigan, and is aunt to two tanks masquerading as rescue dogs. Her sketch comedy has been produced in Houston, and she is at work on a humorous young adult novel. In her most recent foray into community theatre, she was billed below a cat.

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