Preview: Hayford, FGCU going to the dogs in new play 'Dog Wish'

Theater professor's new work uses monologues, dance segments, film clips, slides, and movement to try and 'identify a human's place in nature'

Article Highlights

'Dog Wish' runs April 3-14 at the FGCU Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $7 and available online at theatrelab.fgcu.edu. Showtimes are Wednesday - Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Photo illustration by Anica Sturdivant

"Dog Wish" runs April 3-14 at the FGCU Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $7 and available online at theatrelab.fgcu.edu. Showtimes are Wednesday - Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

IF YOU GO

What: Multimedia play about how humans relate to canines

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays through April 14

Where: Arts Complex on the FGCU campus

Cost: $7

Information: (239) 590-7268; theatrelab.fgcu.edu

Something else: Also runs April 15-17 at SBDAC in downtown Fort Myers

On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.

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MORE INFORMATION

"Dog Wish" runs April 3-14 at the FGCU Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $7 and available online at theatrelab.fgcu.edu. Showtimes are Wednesday - Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Three encore performances will run at 8 p.m. April 15-17 at the SBDAC in downtown Fort Myers. Tickets are $10 and available online at sbdac.com.

Dr. Michelle Hayford, an assistant professor of theatre at Florida Gulf Coast University, loves dogs.

She tells me this just two questions into our interview, in a statement that leaves no wiggle room. Not even for the slightest tail wag of joy.

"I am a dog lover."

Two pups inhabit the Hayford home, Jamie, a 13-year-old German Pinscher, and Koko, a recently adopted Japanese Chin. They share space with with kids, a cat and tall two-legged humans who set out food and take them for walks.

Canines inspired her latest project, "Dog Wish," which will run April 3-14 at FGCU and April 15-17 at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in downtown Fort Myers. The show uses six actors (including Hayford), plus scenes, monologues, dance segments, film clips, slides, and movement to try and "identify a human's place in nature."

"It should appeal to anyone," Hayford said, "not just dog lovers."

The play takes its name from a whimsical and amusing James Thurber quote: "Man is troubled by what might be called the Dog Wish, a strange and involved compulsion to be as happy and carefree as a dog."

Anyone who has ever seen a pack of dogs racing across an open field, tongues lolling, barking furiously, in pursuit of nothing but a good time, knows exactly the "happy and carefree" feeling Thurber's quote represents.

Patricia McConnell, from "Calling All Pets," even makes an appearance.

"Patricia does show up in the play," Hayford said, "and I play her, which is really fun."

The impetus for "Dog Wish" came from the Humane Society of the United States

"The HSUS wanted a drama to take on dog fighting," Hayford said.

Wary of trying to create a show based around the newsworthy - but potentially limiting - topic, Hayford broadened her scope. The original multimedia play contains material from about about three dozen interviews with "dog people" of all stripes and breeds.

Students were instructed to interview subjects on "whatever interested them about dogs." Tons of fascinating material about how our furry, four-legged friends interact with mankind came back.

"We got interviews with retired canine handlers and someone who works with the cell dogs program in Lee County," Hayford said.

Other students had material on breed restrictions and efforts to ban pit bulls, plus stuff from local rescues, animal welfare organizations and other canine non-profits. The show does include a segment about dog fighting; Hayford's ensemble approaches topic with an original dance piece.

Hayford was approached in spring of 2011; students started interviews in fall 2011 and continued through fall 2012. The script was done by the end of February.

Hayford synthesized the material into a show that she hopes will get audiences "thinking about the human animal."

I had to ask her to explain that.

Hayford responds by posing a question of how humans could do research on animals - even when we aren't all that different from animals ourself. But for a few stray bis of DNA, we'd all be climbing trees and chomping bananas.

Basically, "Dog Wish," wants audiences to try and understand and why how humans treat animals (specifically dogs) the way we do.

The show also carries a "don't shop; please adopt" message.

"You really shouldn't shop for your pet," Hayford said, speaking of the tough-to-regulate dog-breeding business. "You are really supporting an ugly industry."

Twenty percent of the proceeds from "Dog Wish" will go to The Brody Project, a Collier County non-profit which promotes the health benefits of the human-animal bond.

"Dog Wish" runs April 3-14 at the FGCU Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $7 and available online at theatrelab.fgcu.edu. Showtimes are Wednesday - Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Three encore performances will run at 8 p.m. April 15-17 at the SBDAC in downtown Fort Myers. Tickets are $10 and available online at sbdac.com.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified one of Dr. Hayford's dog. Koko is a Japanese Chin.

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