Our real canine star was Foxy Liza. She was a pure white miniature Spitz - a smaller copy of Fox - that had been given to us by a student of mine, Bonnie Malone. We did a production of the silly, wry comedy The Good Soldier Schweik, and she played the dog owned by an Army Lieutenant. For purposes of casting, I named the pet "Lice," which was near enough to "Liza" for her to respond. I incorporated several of her tricks (standing up and spinning around, "speak," and shaking hands) into the show, which worked perfectly as part of the plot is a disputed ownership of the dog - and her commanded tricks demonstrated the real owner. She was a real star and performed all six performances without one mistake (or one ad lib or one missed cue!).
She was also in our Play Package Company in our play The Green Faced Yuk.
The Play Package Company was started right after the Kent State killing, partly to re-establish our reputation as a reputable school. Governor Rhodes' foolish use of the National Guard had undermined our good name and (horrifyingly enough) there were many people in northeast Ohio who really believed that the KSU campus was a hotbed of radicals and that more of the students should have been shot. (But that is another story, which I will not write!)
(The Play Package Company played to elementary schools: the whole school, K-6 and the teachers. They paid a flat $100 for the performance and were told that they could charge a very small admission - BUT: NO ONE could be turned away for lack of funds. I should write up the Play Package Company in a separate section.)
Back to Foxy Liza: Liza played a dog who (in the plot) gets hit by a car. In the scene after the accident, she was carried into the scene by the character of the Mother who was fighting back tears of shock and pity for the poor wounded dog. We had one paw wrapped in a "bloody" bandage and another one around her upper torso.
Liza obediently whimpered and cried through the whole short scene Ð right on cue every time. A truly remarkable performer. I wish some of my humans in the cast had been so faithful! She had the most remarkable understanding.
Our schedule called for us to play every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with the performance ending at the time school was usually over for the day. Foxy Liza came to know (somehow) when it was Tuesday or Thursday, and on those few times during the semester when we did not have a school date she got very upset!
She was beautifully trained. We would enter the school and carry our scenery into the all-purpose room, or gym, or wherever it was we were to play. I would put Liza down by a wall so she could watch our coming and going. I would say to her, "STAY!" and she would not budge. Even when the audience began to stream in, I could see her fighting her natural gregarious impulse to leap up and jump all over them. She never stirred until I was through my opening greeting to the school and warming them up and urging them to laugh or clap (or whatever) during the show. They I would turn to Liza and call her over and say to her "SIT." She would, and I would introduce her to the audience. Then I would tell them that now we were going to start the play, and not, under any circumstances during the performance, call out to the dog as it would distract her from her performance. I never had one school at which that request was violated!
She performed the role from 12 to 18 times, perfectly every time!