‘My Barking Dog’ reveals the beast within at convergence-continuum

No, “My Barking Dog” by Eric Coble isn’t about my obnoxious (but super cute) puggle named Mac, it’s about drawing your own lines in the sand and then choosing whether or not to cross them. It’s about embracing the animal within, while clinging to a need for structure.

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With a limited run at The Liminis, convergence-continuum presents this two-person piece as part of its “Tweener Series” August 11-13, 2016.

Toby and Melinda live quiet, empty lives in their apartment building. When a starving coyote shows up on their fire escape one night, their worlds spiral magically, wildly out of control. As they embrace their animal instincts, they experience what happens when the boundaries between wild and civilized are gnawed clean through. Their story is filled with such startling surprises, you won’t know what hit you.

“Sundays are like Fridays in reverse.”
– ‘My Barking Dog’ by Eric Coble

Director Sarah Greywitt and actors Amanda Lin Boyd and Stuart Hoffman contemplate their own versions of “wild.”

Kate Klotzbach: What do you feel are the boundaries between “wild and civilized”? Do you feel you are either more one or the other, yourself?
Sarah Greywitt: I think there is a balance, and the boundaries are fluid. Because I am socialized, I am definitely more civilized than wild. In contrast, it’s interesting watching my 16-month-old nephew, as you definitely see more “wild” than civilized. For instance, teaching him that while biting a stuffed animal is okay, it hurts when he bites a person. I do have moments of wild or moments of just reacting by instinct. I think most of us do.

Kate: What types of “magic and madness” do you find in your own life?
Sarah
: I don’t find magic nearly enough. Most magical moments happen for me in the theatre, or sometimes in the classroom, or attending a musical event. I seek it more than I find it. I traveled to Ireland this spring, and found a lot of magic there in the people, the live music and the atmosphere of that country. Often when experiencing “flow” there is a magic present.  Maybe a “magic and madness” as you put it.

Kate: As a director, how did you approach and work with this small cast of two? What were some of the challenges and some of the benefits to working small as opposed to working with a large ensemble?
Sarah: I love small casts. The organization of rehearsals is so much easier with a small cast so you can rehearse the play in any order, and you can really cherry pick your actors. And with these actors, I have worked with both before and trust them completely, making the rehearsal process really enjoyable.

Some of the biggest challenges are for the actors. The show runs 80 minutes, they are on stage the whole time and carry the show. That’s a huge challenge for them. I do my best to support them and make their jobs easier, but this show has really been a collaboration.  We are all bringing ideas and solutions to the table as we work.

Kate: Amanda and Stuart – you play the characters of Melinda and Toby. Tell me about the play.
Stuart Hoffman: It kind of reminds me of a Sam Sheppard short play – where they all start out relatively normal… but it progressively gets more twisted and odd and confusing, where by the end of the play you’re kind of going, “what just happened?”
Amanda Lin Boyd: Audience members will laugh. Most people coming in who know nothing about it will squirm a little bit. They’ll be a little off, and they will also laugh.

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Stuart Hoffman plays Toby in “My Barking Dog”

Kate: I read somewhere that a character has an “intimate” moment with the coyote. I’m wondering how does this happen? What? Why? Huh?
Stuart: Yah, the intimacy can be both physical and emotional. The characters are both so sad and soulless in their lives, and in comes a wild animal that it’s just so raw and so intimate, without anything really happening.
Amanda: It’s a question that you wonder: the Coyote – is it real is it not… it could be in their heads, but it could be as real as anything.

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Amanda Lin Boyd plays Melinda in “My Barking Dog”

Kate: Have you ever seen a real coyote?
Sarah: I have not. But I was always fascinated with the stories of coyotes living in Chicago where I used to live. As I understood, they lived in the city and ate the rats so were left alone, but I never saw one.

Kate: How are you similar to or different from your characters?
Amanda: Stuart is like Toby in certain ways, reserved, his sense of humor is dry, he’s very focused but also a bit “off” (in a good way!)
Stuart: Amanda like Malinda in that she’s very blunt. She’s very direct.
Amanda: I can also say that as a stage manager I see the importance of Melinda’s “rules” in her life. I see that.

KateHave you ever had a soul-sucking job? Did it influence how you directed the piece?

Sarah: Are you kidding? Of course I have!  I spent several years in Chicago working one mindless, soul-sucking job after another while working as an actor. I am sure it influenced the direction of the piece; it seems the whole cast can relate. Although at some level, the characters in this play seem to find some interest and pride in these sad, civilized lives. I think we focused more on how these characters managed to brag about the mundane, or get caught up in the office drama or lore, convinced that means something, until the encounter with the coyote, which changes anything for them.

Kate: Tell me about your dogs!

Sarah: My dog is a loved and lovable, and completely over-indulged American Bulldog mix.  She’s a rescue dog from Lucas County Pit Crew in Toledo. She usually prefers long days on the couch to spending too much time outside, so I think she may have lost a lot of her “wild”.
Amanda: My dog is like “this big” [making a “small” gesture]. I mean she barks sometimes but it’s not in any way threatening. She thinks it’s threatening. Crouton not an inspiration  for the piece, but good for dog therapy in breaks and after rehearsals. As opposed to the coyote in the play – it is not at all a “pet.” Melinda embraces the primal, wild animal that it is.

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“My Barking Dog” has a limited run August 11-13 at The Liminis. Tickets are $15.

All proceeds from this show go to the Save the Liminis capital campaign. The goal is $200,000.00, and they need it before the end of 2016. Without it, the building will have to be sold. MORE INFO HERE.

The Liminis is located at 2438 Scranton Road, one block west of Lincoln Park in Cleveland’s historic Tremont neighborhood. For more information on convergence-continuum, CLICK HERE.

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Amanda’s tiny Crouton
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Sarah and her barking dog, Monet
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Kate’s puggle Mac
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Kate’s little Maddy

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