Dogs on Stage: “If an animal can deal with an animal shelter, doing eight shows a week is a breeze”

Pets are no strangers to the stage. Dogs often steal the spotlight from their human costars in shows like Annie and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. William Berloni runs a company (William Berloni Theatrical Animals) in order to supply productions with the perfect animals. He found the original Sandy for Annie 35 years ago, and is currently training dogs for the upcoming Broadway revival of the show.

In an interview with Yahoo!, Berloni explained that he uses rescue dogs because “you can’t find a more stressful situation for a dog than an animal shelter,” he said. 

“What I look for are dogs that are dealing with that stress.  If an animal can deal with an animal shelter, doing eight shows a week is a breeze.  Those are the dogs I gravitate towards, and those are the dogs I tell people who want to adopt a good pet to gravitate towards.”  After training the dogs for five to six months, the animals are ready for the stage.  Berloni said, “My job is to teach the dog the pattern [of what’s going to happen in the show], make it fun, and keep the distractions at a minimum.”

However, controlling all variables is near impossible.  A recent performance of Legally Blonde forced one actress to think quickly on her feet.  Some audience members in the first row were eating fried chicken.  She knew that when she brought the dog onstage, the smell would distract the animal.  Berloni said, “She turned the dog upstage so she couldn’t get a whiff of it.  And that’s what you do, as opposed to not being in tune with your canine partner, letting them get distracted, and then having to push them to the spot where they need to be.”

Actors have several tricks to keeping the dogs’ attention, including secretly giving them treats.  Berloni said, “If an actor is on their game, in turns of handling the dog, they have to be in the moment.”

1 Comment

  1. Tori Helms via Facebook

    April 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Rescue dogs are the best! Love reading this!!!

Leave a Reply
Jon Bernthal on His Approach to Acting and How Investing Himself into a Role Makes for Better Performances
"One of the drawbacks of playing the Punisher would be the high exposure. There’s a real downside to that as an actor" - Jon Bernthal
Daniel Day-Lewis on His “Final” Role in ‘Phantom Thread’: “The impulse to quit took root in me, and that became a compulsion”
"All my life, I’ve mouthed off about how I should stop acting, and I don’t know why it was different this time" - Daniel Day-Lewis
Adam Driver: “Basically, the only thing I try to do is know my lines”
"I never figure anything out. I do my job. That’s my goal, to be as economical as possible." - Adam Driver
Bryan Cranston, Robert Pattinson and Armie Hammer on Working with Others
"You know, it’s not imperative that you get along with your co-stars; it’s like your in-laws — it just makes things easier" - Bryan Cranston
Margot Robbie: “I do timelines and backstories, I work with a dialect coach, a movement coach and an acting coach”
"I need to be with other actors, then my focus is on what they’re doing and all I need to do is react to it. I’m too in my head if I’m on my own." - Margot Robbie