Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor
Saturday, 19 April 2014 08:33
Director Michael Ellison has a couple of divas to deal with in the production of the musical "Legally Blonde."
|Margot (performed by Madison Zavitz) interacts with Bruiser (performed by Nugget). (Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
And they're not Tader Shipley, Leah Gesouras or Hannah Berry, the women playing the lead female roles in the musical based on the movie.
No, Ellison's divas are the Yorkshire terrier, Nugget, who landed the key role as the heroine Elle Woods' dog Bruiser, and the Pomeranian, Kit, who plays her friend Paulette's dog Rufus.
At a recent run through of the musical, the pups were not going along with the program. Nugget ran straight off stage when she should have darted into the arms of an actress. And when asked to speak, she simply sat and stared.
Kit later displayed a notable lack of enthusiasm during a reunion with Paulette.
Such are the issues in dealing with dogs on stage.
For Calla Ramsey, the dog trainer brought in for the show, working with the animals is a particular challenge.
When training dogs, the trainer is right there to correct on the spot. But for a play, the animal has to be trained to perform with only subtle reminders. "I have to get that perfect on stage," Ramsey said.
Nugget and Kit have learned their parts well, but their behavior at the run-through was "unusual," she said. They'd had a couple days off, she noted.
Being dogs, "there are going to be days when they say they don't really feel like it."
"They're both divas," she said.
Sure enough, during the intermission break, Nugget was speaking on cue, and Kit was happily cuddling in an actor's arms.
Usually, Nugget will speak on command. During the first rehearsals, Ramsey said, the dog thought that her stage name Bruiser was the cue to speak. So every time someone uttered the name, she'd bark.
Ellison said the dogs are an essential thematic element in the show, "mostly because of what they represent to both of these women."
The Department of Theatre and Film held auditions for the dogs. Ramsey, who works in Sylvania as a trainer, said they were looking for dogs who weren't shy and wouldn't be disturbed by the hubbub, music and applause.
"Personality and trainability" is what Ellison said he was looking for. Nugget and Kit fit the bill.
"They love the attention," Ramsey said. "They think this is the best thing in the world."
Nugget's guardian is Erica Pax, a BGSU graduate student in Learning Design, and Kit's guardian is Devon Holbrook, a bachelor of fine arts major in photography.
For Ramsey, working as the dog wrangler brings together her career as a dog trainer and her love of theater.
Ramsey, who grew up in Temperance, Mich., knew she wanted to work with animals, but given her aversion to blood and organs, being a veterinarian was out of the question.
When she was a sophomore in high school, her family got a boxer and she realized that training dogs would be a god fit.
She has studied online at the Animal Behavior College and has completed her internship.
She performed in musicals in high school, but hasn't since. She even thought about auditioning for "Legally Blonde," but couldn't because she's not affiliated with the university. A friend who did audition told her the university was looking for a dog trainer, so she signed on.
Ramsey said she's enjoyed her work. "I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the whole performance with the dogs."
"Legally Blonde" will be staged in the Donnell Theatre on campus Thursday, Friday and April 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., and April 26 and 27 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 419-372-8171 or visit www.bgsu.edu/arts.
Representatives of Planned Pethood and Cutie's Fund of Lucas County will be in the lobby before each performance to promote their programs.
Last Updated on Saturday, 19 April 2014 10:56