From the Comic Strip to the Stage: SDSU Theatre Presents "Dog Sees God" by Bert V. Royal
Bert V. Royal began writing Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead in January of 2004, after he had just been dumped by a boyfriend, lost a job, and was feeling overall like the most miserable guy in the world. He thought, who better to be the vessel for his frustrations than Charlie Brown, the blockhead who constantly gets the football yanked out from under him?
In this production, we stumble upon an unauthorized continuation of Charles M. Schulz’s famous Peanuts characters, now as moody teenagers. When CB (Charlie Brown) discovers that his Beagle best friend has terminal rabies, he is left to deal with the aftermath of the loss of a loved one. He seeks answers about confronting his own mortality and the realities of the world while surrounded by his now somewhat degenerate teen aged friends, including an abused pianist, a pyromaniac ex-girlfriend, drunk party girls, a homophobic/germophobic quarterback, a stoner Buddhist, a drama queen little sister, and a missing pen pal, all while under the pressures of high school.
Though they are older versions of the beloved kids that were once arguing about picking out the fanciest Christmas tree, or comparing who got a Valentine’s Day card, they now face issues that are much more intense, including drug abuse, homophobia, sexual abuse, eating disorders, rebellion, and bullying.
In a narrative that reflects his own life, Royal also brings to light the realities of being a questioning LGBT student in the modern chaotic world of being a teenager. According to the Human Rights Campaign, it is estimated that LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to be the victim of bullying while at school (Human Rights Campaign 2018).
Directed by lecturer and undergraduate advisor for the School of Theatre, Television, and Film Dr. Katie Turner, Dog Sees God is brought to life by her vision to make the darker elements of the character’s lives, such as depression, anxiety, and aggression, into teachable moments for her actors. Through improvisation, physical exercises, and extensive conversations with the actors about the material, she offers students tools to fully express (and cope with) the intense emotional circumstances of the play. She has also brought in industry-standard techniques relevant to executing scenes requiring intimacy and stage combat. This is done with an eye to giving the actors practices they can carry forward with them in their professional lives. Her attention to detail and care that she shows for her team make this play an impressive first production for the spring semester.
First year Theatre Performance major Cierra Watkins, who has her debut role as ‘Van’s Sister,’ (Peanuts’ ‘Lucy’), states that the most challenging task in bringing Royal’s script to life is “becoming a character that is so well known to a lot of people, trying to make her unique and different.”
In rehearsals that are filled with revelations and self-discovery, the actors have worked diligently to unfold these characters onstage and are eager to share this story. When asked why someone should see this show, senior Musical Theatre Performance major Ross Graham, who presents the lead role, ‘CB,’ replied, “You’ve seen the Peanuts characters as kids, and now you get to see them go through high school, going through things you might have personally encountered. It’s really important to recognize where you stood in high school and where you stand now.”
In the desperate journey of adolescence, identities are sought, while childhood friendships are molded into hatred, deteriorated by the world around them. Emotions run high, and the young people onstage become nothing like the beloved Peanuts characters you once grew up with. They learn more about themselves, speak their minds, and grow up onstage.
Please be aware that this production is not a family friendly play. Extremely strong language and situations for mature audiences are portrayed, including moments of violence. Performances run February 21st-22nd and 26th-29th at 7:30pm, with matinees on February 27th and March 1st at 3pm in SDSU’s Experimental Theatre. Tickets are $20 for general admission, and $17 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at [url=https://ttf.sdsu.edu]https://ttf.sdsu.edu[/url].
The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.