tcTAKEOUT Episode 29: Katie McMillan and Mark Limacher perform "They Can't Take That Away From Me"

Just in case you were wondering, we love dogs here at Theatre Calgary. Whether it’s #ClaratheOfficeDog or an April Fools Day joke that literally went to the dogs, we can’t get enough. Today we’re shining the spotlight on some very special friends we’ll never fur-get, plus a couple familiar snouts from behind-the-scenes.

Sushi the dog. Photo by Trudie Lee

Sushi

Role: Bijou
Show: A Fitting Confusion (2000)

If you know farce, you know that each title has its own share of challenges. From actors playing a multitude of characters, to the excessive amount of doors sometimes involved, backstage and rehearsals can be farces themselves. Add a chihuahua mix named Sushi and you have a real shitzu-show on your hands (sorry, we had to).

Between Michael Frayn’s Noises Off and the Canadian premiere of One Man, Two Guvnors, at Theatre Calgary we are no strangers to putting classic farce on stage. In 2000, the genre made yet another appearance with a run of Georges Feydeau’s A Fitting Confusion (an English translation of Tailleur pour dames). There was a small role for an even smaller dog and cast-member Grant Linneberg’s chihuahua Sushi was a perfect fit. As Sushi was owned by Linneberg and his wife, actor Lindsay Burns, Sushi came from an artistic household, and made his debut on the Max Bell stage.

Jetta and Pookie

Role: Candy's Dog
Show: Of Mice and Men (2006) 

In the theatre there are unfortunately some worst-case scenarios that we have to do our best to prepare for... like an actor falling ill during rehearsals. Unlike the Star Wars franchise, however, we can’t bring performers back to life with groundbreaking CGI and a green screen... let alone a 13-year old black Lab in 2006.

Our 2006-2007 Season opened with a stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Alongside the classic characters of George and Lennie, the script also required a dog who was preferably older, slower, and without much of  the “vigour of youth.” To find the perfect salt and pepper paws, former Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum held open auditions for the role that attracted over two dozen dogs and their humans. Out of these, a 13 year old black Lab named Jetta emerged victorious.

Sadly, this excitement was short-lived as Jetta was left immobile by a torn ligament in her hind leg during rehearsals and passed away. While it was devastating for everyone involved, the spirit of the theatre and “the show must go on” rang true, with the immediate casting of a 12 year-old Collie cross named Pookie (who had been a part of the original audition) to fill in. In retrospect it’s almost as if Jetta was too perfect for the role.

Dharma and Jasper

Role: Crab
Show: The Two Gentlemen of Verona (2018)

The role of Crab in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona is among the most famous theatrical canines. This notoriety, coupled with the hazards of an outdoor production, made casting the perfect pair of dogs to share the role in our 2018 Shakesbow production that much more important. Like Of Mice and Men, we held open auditions to find the right pooches to play Crab, with two amazing dogs chosen after a series of tests to judge their temperament and distractibility (unfortunately we cannot keep squirrels off of Prince’s Island Park).

Dharma the Labrador X, and Jasper the Border Collie-Havanese X shared the role of Launce’s trusty sidekick for the summer and permanently endeared themselves to everyone involved. Speaking from personal experience, I remember vividly one performance when Alex Cherovsky (playing Launce), had to do some quick and impressive ad-libbing because something fluttering in the distance was a little too much for Jasper.

That summer we also partnered with Heaven Can Waita no-kill animal shelter in Okotoks who came to the park for Sunday performances with animals up for adoption. One very special dog named Tinker was even adopted by a couple who met her at a performance. 

Follow Dharma on Instagram: @dharmadogadventures

Image from The Calgary Herald archive.

Image from The Calgary Herald archive.

Nipper and Suzi

Role: Candy's Dog
Show: Of Mice and Men (1979)

We don’t know much about the two dogs that were part of our 1979 production of Of Mice and Men, so imagine our surprise to learn that the original house programme for the show included their bios! Read them both below:

Nipper came from Edmonton to perform Of Mice and Men, a role she played in 1972 at the Citadel Theatre. She is a fourteen year old Border Collie, and appears through the assistance of Holly Hardman. Raised on a feedlot outside of Edmonton, Nipper’s past credits also include a bit part in The Miracle Worker in 1969. This is her first appearance on stage in Calgary.

Suzi - Making her stage debut, Suzi has come to Theatre Calgary from the Calgary Humane Society. She is in need of a home and may be adopted as soon as the show closes, November 25. If you would like to adopt a star, or have any further inquiries…

Clara (the Office Dog)

If you follow us on social media, you probably already know who Clara is. Theatre Calgary’s resident pup even has her own Arts Commons access pass and hashtag (#ClaratheOfficeDog). The companion of our Artistic Producer, Clara is often seen giving herself walks around the office (with her own leash in her mouth), playing with her beloved dinosaurs, and giving a welcoming bark to at all the strangers who come through the door. She’s a 10 year old hypoallergenic Labradoodle who believes that she is the Queen. She’s not wrong though, since she probably has the most comfortable chair/throne in the entire office.

(Princess) Gretal

Gretal is a very small and very special good luck charm from behind the scenes at Theatre Calgary. Currently living the hygge life with her family in Denmark, Gretal is dearly missed as a permanent fixture backstage. A favourite of cast, crew, staff alike, Gretal is a former full-time purse dog turned rescue with a temperament and fashion sense we all should try and envy.

Follow @princess_gretal on Instagram