Play 'Dog Sees God' depicts dark version of Charlie Brown

'Dog Sees God' premieres Feb. 13

By Fiona O'Brien | February 12, 2019 9:09pm

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Senior Joe Flory (playing CB) and sophomore Jesi Robison (playing Van's sister) rehearse a scene. 

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

We all know Charlie Brown, his gloomy nature and the innocent story lines that go along with The Peanuts. For the first play of the spring semester, the theater department is taking on a dark rendition of Charlie Brown in Bert V. Royal’s play “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” playing from Feb. 13 to 16 in Mago Hunt. 

Junior Clare Kessi (playing Tricia) and freshman Madison Bible (playing Marcy) point and laugh during a scene in dress rehearsal. 

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

The show opens with Snoopy’s funeral, and then takes the audience through the eventful lives of the Peanuts as they struggle through high school and face a whirlwind of emotions. Sophomore theater major and stage manager Mikelle Kelly hopes that students will leave reflecting on themselves today and how they have changed since high school. 

Michelle Seaton, director and performing and fine arts adjunct professor, said that “Dog Sees God” is considered an “unauthorized parody.” The show has similar names and costumes seen in Charles Schultz’s Charlie Brown. But Royal never got permission from the Schultz estate to use his original ideas. As a result, the name for Charlie Brown in the show is ‘CB,’ and Sally is referred to as ‘CB’s sister.’ 

While “Dog Sees God” is known for its mature themes, heavy emotions and vulgar language, Seaton chose this play to address issues that are prevalent today. 

“You’re dealing with themes of bullying in high school, with identity, with homophobia, and also the concept of finding our humanity again and accepting the differences within each other,” Seaton said.

Before buying the rights to the play, Gregory Pulver, the head of the theatre department, ran the idea by the administration first. Although there are risky themes and vulgar language in the show, the university supports the play and granted approval. 

Canva graphic created by Fiona O'Brien. 

by Fiona O'Brien / The Beacon

“When we were thinking about the show, I sent a synopsis to (Professor) Karen Eifler, Rev. John Donato and Rev. Ed Obermiller to see what they thought,” Pulver said in an email. “All opinions came back positive and (Professor) Eifler even said that in the beginning and end of the show God is present, so how can we not support that.”

Seaton has a bachelor’s degree in theatre and communication from Linfield College, and graduated from Rutgers University in 2009 with her M.F.A in directing. She has won many awards for her directing and acting experiences, including a Drammy Award for Best Acting Ensemble in 2004. For the past six years, she has been an adjunct professor at UP, teaching Introduction to Fine Arts and theatre classes at UP.

Seaton said that the actors have been very brave in taking on these heavy emotions and had to show a lot of vulnerability in their roles. However, she believes that “a good actor is always vulnerable.”

Joseph Flory, a senior theatre major who plays the role of CB, says the play highlights the importance of kindness.

“The play is exhausting,” Flory said. “It shows how horrible we can be to one another, but it also shows us the importance of simply being kind to each other. It kind of walks us through that long, dark tunnel and let's us go just as we're starting to see that light at the end.”

Junior Ankit Madhira (playing Van) blows smoke into freshman Madison Bible's face (playing Marcy) in a dress rehearsal scene. 

by Paula Ortiz Cazaubon / The Beacon

On Wednesday night after the first show, there will be a ‘Talk Back’ where the audience is invited to stay and discuss the show with the cast and director. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions about the themes and the story line. 

Fiona O'Brien is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at obrienf21@up.edu.

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