I have always liked working with kids, and this camp allowed me to combine kids and theater which was a joy! Especially after the working with all of the adult cast in Evita (see previous post). They all worked hard. From our Annie to our Apple Seller, every cast member put 110% into this show. It's amazing and inspiring to see how much time and energy they pour into their scenes and songs. It was a privilege to work on this show.
Another great opportunity I was given while involved with Annie Jr., was to be able to work with a real dog as Sandy. The junior version originally calls for a child to play Sandy, but the production team unanimously decided that playing "the dog" is not a coveted part and that having a real dog would add that extra touch to the show.
Finally, the girl playing Annie offered her mom's dog. We knew her family because they are heavily involved in the theater company. Her mom sent us a pic of her terrier mix and even though the dog was smaller and mostly gray and black, she was better than my chihuahua and already had a connection with "Annie".
So from the first moment I met her, Rigg'N was attached to my hip until closing night. I was worried about over working her because she did have some heart problems and I didn't want her passing out because of all of the excitement. Thankfully that wasn't a problem.
I decided that she should only enter and exit from one side of the stage so she would learn that stage left means that she's is going onstage and stage right means to chill out and wait. I also worked on her focus on Annie. Annie would hold a treat or two in one hand and the leash in the other. So Rigg'N would always be watching her hand for signals and not looking or sniffing around.
We worked on coming straight to Annie when it was her cue. Basically we worked it out that when Annie was backstage, I'd give her treats and then Annie would show Rigg'N that she had them. Rigg'N then knew to go straight to her. And that went very smoothly. We also worked on walking and sitting with Annie. Annie walks all over the stage during the number "Tomorrow" and we wanted Rigg'N to follow her. But because she could hear, we could use vocal commands. So I had to teach Rigg'N a hand signal for "sit" that wouldn't be noticeable to that audience. It ended up being a slight flick of the wrist. So when Annie walked, she would tug on the leash so Rigg'N would follow. Then, when she stopped, she would flick her wrist and Rigg'N sat. It took a couple of rehearsals, but she eventually got it.
Her next scene was the last one, and she just came out on a leash with a big bow on her collar. But because every cast member was onstage, it was hard for her to focus. So we ended up using treats again and she immediately focused on Annie.
Rigg'N was such a sweet dog and, although she was older and we had to take caution with her heart issues, the deafness proved to be in our favor because the audience's reaction never bothered her. This experience seemed to open another door for me because I am considering looking into an internship with Bill Berloni, who is basically the go-to guy for animal training in live entertainment. It would combine two of my passions; animals and theatre. So we will see what the future holds!!