ROWAYTON, Conn. - A stray mutt rescued from an animal shelter has emerged as a show business trouper with an extensive list of Broadway credits and an impending appearance in Shakespeare on the Sound’s production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in Rowayton’s Pinkney Park.
Oliver the dog is described as an “All-American mix” by his trainer, Bill Berloni of Haddam whose work with animals in the theater has been recognized with a Tony Award.
The romantic comedy unfolding under the stars in the natural amphitheater of the park from June 12 to 29 is for all practical purposes the only one of Shakespeare’s plays with a part on-stage for an animal to enliven the plot.
The role calls for Oliver to establish a supporting presence with his impassive demeanor while remaining undistracted by the actors moving around the stage, at times spiritedly, waving their arms and uttering their lines impassionedly.
The Rowayton presentation in rehearsal now is a reprise for Oliver in Shakespeare. He appeared in the same role last year in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of the play in Washington, D.C.
Since being plucked as a puppy from a shelter in New Jersey by Berloni seven years ago, Oliver has filled out to 65 pounds and worked all over the U.S. as Little Orphan Annie’s faithful companion Sandy in the revival of the classic musical “Annie.”
The 35 years of achievement were acknowledged with a Tony for Berloni in 2011 “for extraordinary dedication in training rescued animals for the stage with abundant creativity and exemplifying the highest ideals of humane behavior.”
Today Berloni and his wife Dorothy oversee a 90-acre property in Haddam.
There is no charge for general admission or parking. Donations fund the play in part, suggested at $20 or $10 for seniors and students. Reserved seating is also available. Additional information about the activities of Shakespeare on the Sound and is available at www.shakespeareonthesound.org.