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Peanuts gang grows up for Second Stage show
The Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz -- a line-drawn cartoon about the trials and tribulations of Charlie Brown, his dog Snoopy and the rest of his grade school friends -- entertained young and old alike for nearly 50 years, begining in October 1950. Schulz kept his characters perpetually young, but there are those who've wondered what the gang would have been like as teenagers.
Playwright Bert V. Royal did, and his version of them, "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead," an unauthorized parody of the Peanuts comic strip, will be presented by an all-student ensemble Thursday through Dec. 11 at the Rust Flexible Theatre.
The production is part of Southeast Missouri State University's Second Stage Series, which professor Kenn Stilson, a professor and chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, compares to off-Broadway shows.
"We have a Main Stage Series, which is faculty or professionally directed and choreographed with full department resources and is generally more commercial in nature and the plays appeal to a wide audience," Stilson said. "Second Series is like off-Broadway in that it doesn't get as much of the allocated financial resources that Main Stage Series productions get and the shows can be a little less commercial, a little edgier. Edgy doesn't always mean risque; just not as appealing to the general public. But definitely not of lesser quality. ‘Dog Sees God' was a huge off-Broadway hit and will appeal to a lot of people."
During its off-Broadway run, "Dog Sees God" won the GLAAD Media Award for best off-off-Broadway production, the Excellence Award for best overall production at the 2004 Fringe Festival and best play of 2004.
Although a quality show about comic strip characters that many people loved as children, "Dog Sees God" is not a family-oriented play. It is a dark comedy meant for a mature audience. The program is stamped with this warning: "This performance contains adult situations and language," which Stilson equates to a PG-13 rating.
"I don't really like the movie rating system, but people understand it in general," he said. "I'll put it this way: I have a 10-year-old daughter, and she won't be seeing it."
Kyle Morr, a musical theatre major at Southeast, is directing the play.
"At first glance the show comes across as bold and a little bit raunchy," he said. "But as raunchy and as bold as it can be, there are reasons why underlying all of those moments. Without those moments the message at the end isn't as effective. It's the moments of raunchiness or boldness, it's those inappropriate moments that really make you realize the message of acceptance, love and beauty, acceptance being the biggest. I am confident that everyone who comes to see this production will take something away from it."
Assistant professor Amy Fritsche served as a mentor and faculty adviser to Morr. She counseled him through the casting process and helped guide him through the project.
"This is a show that is important to me," Fritsche said. "Royal took the Peanuts characters and brought them into high school. Drugs, alcohol and sexual identity are some major topics he addresses through them; bullying, violence in school and among students and how they cope when faced with something they're not comfortable with."
The next Second Stage Series show will "Reckless," a play written by Craig Lucas and will be performed this spring.
"Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Dec. 10 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 11. Tickets are $10 available at the River Campus box office, by calling 651-2265 or online at www.rivercampusevents.com.