by Chelsea Stavis
In a crowded rehearsal room at Champions Studios on a bitterly cold day in January, I joined a game-ready crew of actors and creatives to begin our journey of discovery into the play Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, written by Bert V. Royal.
Dog Sees God tells the story of Charlie Brown (CB in the show) and the rest of the peanut gang all grownup. To me, the play is one of the best examples of an “ensemble piece”, meaning that each person in the cast has an equal amount of importance and weight in shaping the story. Each character is desperate to learn what it means to be an adult, whether that is through the exploration of sexual identity, drug use, art, religion or love. Little do they know, the answers might be more than they bargained for.
In an early rehearsal, ensemble member, Sam Morales reminisced about being a young child and listening to the radio. She vividly recalled the heartbreak and anguish the music inspired within her- even though she had never actually felt the emotions or lived the experiences herself. At that age of youth and innocence, she could only experience these emotions vicariously through the music. However, Sam wanted to own the experience she heard in that music on her childhood radio – she wanted to “come of age” at any cost. To me, this is the exact tipping point at which we find the ensemble at the start of the play Dog Sees God.
Who did we long to be as children? Who have we become? In almost A Chorus Line fashion, reading the piece aloud inspired and triggered personal memoirs and stories of either our pasts or the pasts of those we had known. All the stories had a common theme. It didn’t matter that all of us had grown up in different parts of the country or from different walks of life. Everyone could relate to the excruciating pain and immeasurable joy of what it is to grow up. Discussing these kinds of deeply personal revelations and admissions made bonding as a group inevitable. It is through these discussions that we gained a deeper understanding of our ensemble, both on stage and off.
As the female swing in this production, I get to try on four entirely different characters and explore all sides of an essentially four-sided female coin. This has allowed me the ability to see not only the individual journey that each actor/character takes, but also to see how each part fits as a piece of the whole. The truth is, while I am the female swing, I would love to go on for CB! Or Beethoven! Or Matt, or Van, or any one of these characters! After going through this process, I feel a kinship with every single one of these roles. There is a universality to them all – to us, all. To our collective journey.
…And I guess at the root of it, either on stage or off, every single one of us is on a journey of discovery, with the intense and deep-rooted desire to one day be discovered ourselves.