And so they came Wednesday — straining at their leashes or waddling nonchalantly — to the Sarasota Opera House courtyard, with aspirations of being selected to star in the upcoming March production of “Of Mice and Men.”
At least one owner brought a glossy picture portfolio. A few looked more nervous than their charges. Most brought treats as a reward for the good behavior they hoped for.
It was the first animal audition the opera had ever held. And for all but one of the canine thespians — a veteran of an Asolo Repertory Theatre play — it was a first (and perhaps last) shot at stage time and stardom.
As with any audition, there were only a few minutes to make a winning impression. Each dog was led by their owner into a nearby rehearsal hall and made to sit between three singers, who proceeded to burst into the loudest section of the 20-minute scene in which the chosen dog will appear. Then a singer did the leading instead, generally with much less success.
Though the dog in the opera is shot, no simulated death throes were required. That part would happen off stage.
The adjudicators — Artistic Administrator Greg Truppiano and his assistant, Rob Holland — took notes while a cameraman filmed a video that would be sent to Michael Unger, the stage director of the production, in New York. The final selection is not expected for two weeks.
Thirteen-year-old Pede, a border collie mix, took it all in stride, barely perking his ears at the magnificent volume. Wrigley, a 3-year-old Australian Shepard, began to bark wildly in collaboration.
Ben, a giant St. Bernard/Standard poodle mix, cocked his furry head quizzically side to side and raised an eyebrow before standing up and politely walking out.
Four legs or two, not everyone is cut out for show biz.
“Emma”: German Shepard, 4, owned by Diane Coles of Bradenton. “Does she sing? Sometimes, if she hears an ambulance.”
“Pede”: Border collie mix, 13, owned by Jean Smith of Arcadia. “He’s done herding, he’s been a 4-H dog, he’s been shown, he’s a therapy dog. He’s been around a lot. He’s used to a ruckus.”
“Cocoa”: Boouvier de Flandres, owned by Fonda Giacoia of Sarasota. “Our biggest problem is going to be getting her to look like she’s ready to die. She only does that when she’s sleeping.”
“Roscoe”: Chow/Shepard mix, 9, owned by Jim Gillespie. (Roscoe appeared in the Asolo’s production of ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona two years ago). “Yes, he has a resume. He beat out 45 other dogs for that part. He likes this environment.”
“Wrigley”: Miniature Australian shepard, 3, owned by Lauren Lee. “Is he calm? In all honesty, no. Not at all.”
“Ben”: St. Berdoodle (St. Bernard/Standard Poodle mix), 13 months, owned by Jeanine Brawn. “I know he’s not a herding dog, but people mistake him for an Old English Sheepdog, which is a herding dog.”
“Scot”: Border collie, 9, owned by Kathy Allen. “He actually is a sheep herding dog. He hasn’t been around singers, but he’s been around a whole lot of dogs, sheep and ducks.”