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Bert V. Royal’s “Dog Sees God” Parodies the “Peanuts” Comic-Strip Characters as Teenagers

"Dog Sees God" opens June 24th

"Dog Sees God" opens June 24th in REP's new downtown theater

Raleigh Ensemble Players will conclude its critically acclaimed 2010-11 season with Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, Los Angeles playwright and screenwriter by Bert V. Royal’s unauthorized and decidedly adult parody of good-old Charlie Brown and the other “Peanuts” comic-strip characters as teenagers, on June 24-26, June 29-July 3, and July 6-9 in its new home at 213 Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh, NC.

“While inspired by the wholesome, all-American [“Peanuts”] gang generations have grown up with, this production is intended for mature audiences only,” cautions long-time REP artistic director C. Glen Matthews. “Additionally, Dog Sees God is presented in a unique environmental format that places the audience in the world of the play: in the classroom, at the lunch table, in the schoolyard, and on CB’s brick wall. As a result, seating is extremely intimate and limited, and patrons will be assigned to a specific area of the playing space upon arrival.”

Matthews says, “Individuals with special seating requests or needs are encouraged to notify REP’s managing director Gary Williams when making reservations [at gorep@juno.com or 919/832-9607].” (Note: The June 24th and 25th performances are already sold out.)

Dog Sees God made its Off-Broadway debut, directed by Trip Cullman, on Dec. 15, 2005 at the Century Center for the Performing Arts, where it played until Feb. 20, 2006.

REP director Glen Matthews says, “Dog Sees God was brought to us by a member of our Artistic Committee for consideration during our most recent round of play readings. The committee instantly fell in love with the play, and felt it would be a wonderful match for REP’s brand of storytelling….

“It’s an intriguing premise,” says Matthews, “taking characters we all grew up following in the newspaper and on television and fast-forwarding them to high school. How might they change? How might they be the same? Would they be able to retain any of those endearing, loveable qualities they had as eight year olds? These are but a few of the many questions that come to mind when one considers the possibilities. And the playwright doesn’t disappoint when addressing such questions.

“Mr. Royal has crafted a world that is poignant, crass, witty, painful, bawdy, and uplifting — everything the high school experience is,” claims REP director Glen Matthews, who also serves on the arts faculty at Cary Academy. “As an educator who works primarily with middle- and upper-school students, I have the opportunity to observe today’s youth as they navigate the ins and outs of high school in the 21st century. How they balance everything is a wonder. But it’s difficult to emerge unscathed. Our high school years are a time of questioning; the answers we uncover often reveal harsh realities.”

When the curtain rises on Dog Sees God, Matthews reports, “… CB (Bryan Burton) edits a letter to his pen pal. CB reveals in the letter that his best friend, his beagle, is dead. As a result, CB begins to consider for the first time what happens to someone — or something — after he/she/it dies.

“In a series of flashbacks, those closest to CB offer their opinions,” Matthews explains. “CB’s sister (recent Cary Academy graduate Hillary Aarons) — who is Wiccan this week — suggests they pray to Hecate and ask for the pet to be returned to them as a friend; Van (recent Enloe High School graduate Joey Osuna) has abandoned his [security] blanket for pot and the enlightenment only Buddha can provide.

“Matt (Eric Morales), Tricia (Jess Barbour), and Marcy (Lori Ingle) offer CB the chance to escape any deep consideration of his question via the high school trifecta of sex, alcohol, and parties,” says Matthews. “But it is Beethoven’s (Thomas Porter) music that offers CB his greatest opportunity to reflect; and as their relationship grows, so too does CB.

“More questions arise, and CB is compelled to visit Van’s sister (Sheryl Scott), who has been incarcerated for a misstep of her own. She encourages CB to act unapologetically, to embrace all that he is. It’s the arrival, though, of his pen pal’s response that ultimately enables CB to process his loss, to forgive, and begin the next phase of his journey,” says Matthews.

In addition to director Glen Matthews and managing director Gary Williams, the Raleigh Ensemble Players creative team for Dog Sees God includes set designer Miyuki Su, lighting designer Thomas Mauney, costume designer Lormarev Jones, sound designer Becca Easley, and stage manager Erin Lerch.

Glen Matthews muses, “What comes to mind when one thinks of the original [“Peanuts” comic-strip and television-specials] source material? A shape. A color. A moment. A sound. Our scenic design reflects this in that it is a collage of environmental icons: a picnic table, a desk, a piano, a tire swing, a brick wall. Memories pieced together; each evoking the characters’ pasts, but also deeply rooted in the here and now.”

He adds, “The remnants of color are present. What was once bright, cheery, and innocent is now distressed and used. This carries over into the characters’ clothes as well. While we may see hints of the colors associated with the characters’ younger versions, these are definitely the young people of today.”

Matthews adds, “Although the play is an unauthorized parody, it does rely heavily on knowledge of the original source material. So, a major challenge has been navigating the incorporation of that source material into the world of this play. There’s a great deal of baggage each of us brings to the characters and the relationships. What should we as a production team embrace and what should we let go of? Should the actors feel tied to the past? To a certain extent, yes. But there’s a fine line, and that’s something that we have experimented with and explored throughout the rehearsal and creative process. I’m very pleased with where we’ve ended up.”

REP director Glen Matthews notes, “REP will hold a [$50-per-person] Gala Celebration and Grand Opening of the new performance space at 213 Fayetteville St. [at 6:30 p.m.] on Saturday, July 9th. As a result, the closing-night performance of Dog Sees God is reserved for Gala Ticket holders only. Information about the Grand Opening festivities as well as the Gala Ticket can be found at REP’s online box office: http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.”

Raleigh Ensemble Players presents DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD at 8 p.m. June 24 and 25, 7 p.m. June 26, 8 p.m. June 29-July 2, 7 p.m. July 3, and 8 p.m. July 6-9 at 213 Fayetteville St., Raleigh North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 students and educators, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except June 29th and July 6th pay-what-you-can performances, $10 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain), and $50 July 9th Grand Opening and Gala Celebration, starting at 6:30 p.m. with a pre-show reception hosted by Mayor Charles Meeker.

BOX OFFICE/GROUP RATES: 919/832-9607, TTY: 919/835-0624, gorep@juno.com, or http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

SHOW: http://www.realtheatre.org/box_office.html.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.realtheatre.org/index.html.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.realtheatre.org/directions.html.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 8 p.m. July 1st performance.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3754 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_Sees_God:_Confessions_of_a_Teenage_Blockhead (Wikipedia), and http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

The Playwright: http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1421629/ (Internet Movie Database).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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