This year, “Dog Sees God” is that show.
In Bert V. Royal’s, “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” Royal unofficially takes the “Peanuts” comic strip characters, and places them in a modern setting. In the show, they are dealing with some heavy issues — and not in the healthiest of ways.
“Basically, we watch some of our favorite childhood characters whom we have always known as children during part of their coming-of-age story while they handle the very real every day pressures of modern life such as bullying, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, and many more,” Sarah Shanks, the show’s director, said.
Those familiar with the classic “Peanuts” characters like Charlie Brown, Sally and Patty will recognize some similar traits and characteristics, but in a new, intense light.
Due to the nature of the show, the cast has been addressing these issues through their characters — a feat that, at times, can take a toll on the the actors who need to embody those characters on stage.
Matthew Kilby, who plays the lead, CB (Charlie Brown), described working on the show as both cathartic and challenging.
“Some nights I dreaded going to rehearsal in fear of going to this dark place I don’t like going to emotionally,” Kilby said.
As director, Shanks said that her approach was to not shy away from these topics, but to approach them from a very open, honest and safe environment.
“They are all real topics many people, including myself, have faced and continue to face today,” Shanks said. “There are moments that get very dark, even in the rehearsal process. It's hard, but my number one concern is always the safety of my cast, crew, production team and audience.”
“I have been doing theater for 17 years and this is the most cathartic experience I've ever had, not only in theater, but life,” Kilby said.
Overall, Kilby said the show was great to work on. He is joined on stage by his best friend and roommate, his girlfriend, and other past cast-mates and friends.
“I know it sounds cliche because every cast says it, but we are a family. We go to this dark place together, and we are all there to help each other out. We and the audience will remember this for the rest of their lives. There isn't quite a live theatre experience like it,” Kilby said.
Due to the mature content of, “Dog Sees God,” parental guidance is suggested when bringing younger audience members to the show.
On that same note, there will be talk-backs after each performance where the cast will be joined by a panel of mental health professionals on hand at the end of each show to offer guidance or help for anything anybody may need after the show.
“I firmly believe that everyone will take something away from this,” Kilby said. “From realizing that it’s OK to deal with grief, it's OK to be yourself, and that you are never alone. This show will hopefully inspire people to reach out for help if they need it.”
“Dog Sees God” will have a limited run at the Johnson City Community Theatre with show times on Sept. 6-7-8 at 7:30 nightly and Sept. 9 at 2 p.m.
To purchase tickets or learn more about the show, visit jccommunitytheatre.org.