The Official Blog of the
Williamstown Theatre Festival

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Animals of the Festival!

Today, we decided to do a little something different and focus on some of our furry friends here at the Festival. Meet Tashi (starring as Tashi in A DOLL’S HOUSE), Turner (the lighting department bunny) and Hopper (Cabaret Director Kris Kukul’s dog)!

Meet Tashi

We talked to Barbara Tran, Tashi’s trainer, to learn more about Tashi, as well as Barbara’s business, See Spot Shine LLC.

Can you tell us a little about Tashi?
Tashi is trained with neither force nor intimidation. And it shows in the ring. She competes in APDT Rally Obedience, and she just shines in the ring because she has always had fun learning the behaviors. Within four months of competition, she earned titles in all 3 levels, all with Awards of Excellence. She is now an APDT Rally Champion (ARCH), as well as a Canine Good Citizen (CGC). Her full name with titles is: ARCH Tashi RL1X, RL2, RL3, CGC. In her spare time, she likes to go long-distance trail running and play with her squeaky toys.

Tashi served time -- out of no fault of her own -- in at least two different shelters. She was adopted and returned, and when she came home to us, at age one, had been deprived of both nutrition and education. No one had bothered to teach her any English, not even "Sit." Today, Tashi is a strong proponent of adoption and of positive reinforcement training.

What celebrity does Tashi identify with?
Tashi identifies with Lucille Ball. The ability to inject moments of mirth into our mundane lives is, she believes, the mark of genius.

What is the next leading role Tashi would like to tackle?
Tashi believes that she is well-suited to play the role of Balto, the Siberian Husky who helped transport -- over 1,000 miles -- serum to combat the diphtheria outbreak in Nome. The event is now commemorated by the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Tashi prides herself on her strength and endurance, and her cute curly tail.

Could you explain what you do?
Through my business, See Spot Shine LLC, I offer group classes and private consultations. I started the business largely because I discovered, while looking for classes for my dogs, that the closest force-free training classes in the area are a 40-minute drive away. That doesn't work for most people's schedules, and so, the people in this area sometimes end up going to old-fashioned trainers. Now that there's more research into animal behavior, there's more data that proves that positive reinforcement is not just a feel-good method but actually is more effective and doesn't create behavior problems the way force-based training does. Even the Navy SEALs are now using positive reinforcement. If it works for them ...

Meet Turner

Wilburn Bonnel, Lighting Department Supervisor, talked to us a bit about Turner, a prop rabbit who found a home in the lighting department.

How did you get Turner?
Turner was the understudy for the baby white rabbit role in VILLA AMERICA in 2007. He and his brother, Bennett (who I think went by a different name during his tenure at WTF), were born here in Williamstown, at green river farm, located at five corners. He was named for Kathleen Turner, who was here directing CRIMES OF THE HEART at the time. Bennett had a great 15-performance run, but as far as I know Turner never got to go on stage. They both lived in the prop shop that season, and became very accustomed to being handled, cuddled, and played with, which is why Turner is so uncannily socialized. In fact, apprentices were "requested" by the props dept. several times a week, for bunny-playtime shifts on the lawn (which might have also entailed cage cleaning...).

As we prepared to close down the season that year, it fell to then-props master, Whitney Hale to determine who among the many clamoring candidates would adopt Turner and Bennett. Ultimately, she chose me (for Turner) and then-assoc. production manager Joel Krause (for Bennett). I've been "storing" Turner for the Festival in the off-season ever since!

What are some fun facts about Turner?
He has never bitten a soul; he has never (to our knowledge) encountered a female of his genus -- the closest he gets to romance is with his beloved blue, inflatable ball; he is able to roam free in the environs of the lighting office, much to the alarm of some passer-by; he is ALWAYS happy to be petted, especially behind the ears or on his nose; he has a propensity towards chewing on data and telephone wires, which garnered him the nickname 'Low-Volt.' This being his 5th year, Turner made the Veteran’s list – look for his name in the program.

What is Turner’s favorite play?
Rabbit Hole, Bunny Girl, Hare-Spray, A Bunny Thing Happened...

What is Turner’s ideal “post show” meal?
Absolutely carrots, but he's big into yogurt treats, grapes, and craisins!

Meet Hopper

Kris Kukul, Cabaret Director, answered a few questions for us about his dog Hopper.

How did you get Hopper?
Hopper was my brother's dog, but he moved to London on 2006 and wasn't able to take here. She's MUCH, MUCH happier now.

What is a fun fact about Hopper?
She once auditioned to be a in a certain play at the Williamstown theatre Festival that shall remain nameless. It rhymes with A Ball's House. The competition was incredibly stiff. One other dog auditioned. Hopper didn't get it.

What is her favorite food?
FOOD is her favorite food, really anything at all. I mean, left to her own devices, she eats grass.

Who is Hopper’s favorite musical theatre diva?
Her favorite musical theatre diva is Liza. Not because Hooper watches CABARET over and over again (that's my job), but because she met Liza on the street outside of my old apartment on 68th Street. It was early in the morning, somebody had had a late night, magic happened.

If Hopper were a contestant on any reality show, what would it be?
Meerkat Manor. I mean, not really a reality show, but she can't get enough. Seriously.
Otherwise, Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School, for obvious reasons.

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