Shakespeare is going to the dogs, in a very literal way. Beginning this week, a homeless pit bull named Jazz will star in a production of "Richard III" at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, which has joined with the Baltimore Humane Society to put him and other adoptable pets centerstage. Jazz is the first adoptable pet to perform with the company this season as part of the Shakespeare Dogs partnership, but he's not the first dog to join the cast of a Shakespeare production by a long shot.
"Baltimore Shakespeare Factory prides itself on putting on productions that are actually the way people put them on back in the old days, when it was much more interactive and there were live animals on stage," said Wendy Goldband, director of marketing and public relations at the Baltimore Humane Society. "They came to us with the idea for Shakespeare Dogs, because they decided that rather than use a dog of their own, they could help out homeless animals."
The partnership, which is now in its third year, has featured both dogs and cats, many of whom have been adopted right after performances. But, in addition to helping needy animals find permanent homes, the partnership also performs an unexpected public service. "As far as production goes, I think this has really given the company an awareness and understanding of shelter animals," Goldband said. "A lot of animals they've taken are pit mixes, which are very maligned. This is a way to show the actors, the audience and the public that these dogs are gentle and bright and really make wonderful pets."