This Dog Our Dog
Once I complete my time machine, my first stop will be the doctor’s office for every vaccination and booster shot known to modern medicine. My second stop will be 1590s London, where I will catch every Lord Chamberlain’s Men show that I possibly can, buy hella oranges and make friends with enough of them that they start inviting me to cast parties. Once I’ve got Burbage and Kempe and Pope and all the rest of them in the same room and agreeably drunk, I will say “All of you need to start keeping journals and every couple years, you need to take that shit to the compositor and make some backups and keep them in places that you’re sure won’t catch fire. William, when you finish Love’s Labour’s Won, maybe staple it to the back of Love’s Labour’s Lost? Seriously guys, we’re gonna want to know about everything that happened at all of your shows, onstage and off, plus rehearsals, plus production meetings. Yes, even those. Please do this or someday there will be severely stupid movies about your careers.”
I have plenty of books left to read about Shakespeare and his world so maybe someday I’ll have answers to all my questions but at present, I try to accept there are certain things about the lives of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men that I’ll never know. We know what everyone paid in to buy the Globe but we don’t know how the players treated each other at rehearsal, what they talked about while getting into costume, who brought food, who went home early. We know that the troupe’s original clown, William Kempe, was already a touring song and dance man of some note when the Lord Chamberlain’s Men first came together. We also know that he left the troupe shortly after the purchase of the Globe. There is some speculation that his tendency to improvise frustrated Shakespeare and indeed, if Hamlet’s lines about insisting that clowns stick to “what is put down for them” are Will S trying to burn Will K, then maybe there’s something to that. It could also be that he made stacks of cash off both his Nine Day Wonder project and the pamphlets he sold thereafter, describing what he saw during his nine day antic dance from London to Norwich. Do you go back to playing Costard after pulling off something like that? I’m not sure.
If there is authoritative information out there about Kempe’s personality, I’ve not yet read it. Worse yet, if there are any concrete facts on the record about the dog he worked with during the premiere run of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, I’ve never even heard of where I might read them. Whether or not he was Kempe’s own dog, which tricks he knew and whether or not he was in fact a good boy? Lost to the sands of time, as far as I know. What I know for an absolute certainty, however, is that the dog for sure got twice as many applause breaks as the human actors because it never, ever goes differently than that.
This is Tonks Douglas-Hatcher, a five-year-old akida and Animal Fire’s animal actor in residence. She has appeared in Animal Fire’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and has rejoined us onstage for The Two Gentlemen of Verona. During Hamlet and Julius Caesar, Tonks worked with the backstage crew, keeping actors calm between scenes. As far as anyone knows, she has no formal training in performance or tricks but she always seems to find the funniest lines to flatten her ears out on or wag her tail. One night a couple years ago, we had gathered as a company to do a reading of Measure for Measure and somewhere in the long act four stretch, right when we were all wondering just how much more the Duke of Dark Corners could possibly play out his weird social engineering experiment, Tonks began to groan. Not whine, groan. Because laying down in the middle of the floor wasn’t a clear enough message to us that we should’ve cut the script before the reading, I guess.
After the show, there is no castmember that the crowd is more keen to meet. As we break down the set, Tonks goes sniffing round all the places where she spotted a picnic during the show because we’re all of us nothing without generous patrons of the arts. She keeps an eye out for squirrels and raccoons while not onstage and makes followup checks for several rehearsals in a row on areas with confirmed varmint sightings. AFT is a close-knit troupe; we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well. Tonks is a dynamite fundraiser but she hardly ever helps put up the stage.
My favorite Tonks story from this show has to be the day where we were working a scene before one of hers several times. As the scene tightened up and the lines came louder and stronger, Tonks stood, crossed the park and laid back down right at the stage left entrance. That is to say, the side from which she would next enter. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that she heard her cue that day and was ready to take the stage as soon as we were caught up. She definitely recognizes which costume Scott tends to have on when he gives her acting snacks.
We may never know much about the dog that so delighted audiences at William Kempe’s side in the late sixteenth century but please, let the historical record show that for these last five years in Olympia, WA, Tonks Douglas-Hatcher has been a valued actor for Animal Fire Theatre and maybe our fifth most reliable board member.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 at 8:55 am
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