Monday, May 9, 2011


MAXMOM here...

Hello there everyone. 
I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing mothers day.
("Annie" rehearsing with "Sandy")

The tickets are on sale, the backdrops are being painted, the scenes are being spliced and the rehearsals are in full swing. The school hall and its adjacent practicing hall are hives of activity at the moment.

Closer to the opening night, our rehearsals will be moving to the main theatre at the University of Johannesburg.
Our full technical rehearsal takes place on the 23rd May. 
The filming of the DVD will take place on the following day.

It is ironic that the filming of the DVD – where Toby, a progeny of my dear Maxdog – takes place exactly on the
 one year anniversary of Maxdog's death:
24th May 2011.
Toby is indeed filling his large pawprints.

Rehearsals are imbued with acting, dancing, singing and transition practices .
I really take my hat off to our amazing director –
 – for her incredible work with the entire cast. 

It is my first experience of a production of this nature, and to watch her in action is a great privilege.  She is wonderful with the young actors! She is organised, pleasant, affable, but strict. Her direction with their individual performances is truly inspirational.  
(Tina showing "Annie" how she wants her to interact with the "Orphans")

Every single one of us WANT to work for her!
(Tina, "Annie" and Toby, during the feeding scene)

She is doing a truly amazing job, and is held in high esteem by every single one of all the self-disciplined cast members. 

Congratulations Tina on a fantastic job!
Congratulations to the cast members too!.
What an amazing team we all are!

The reality is that there are only TWO WEEKS TO GO!... before the curtain raises on Annie. 

 Toby and I spent most of our weekend at the school.
It's hectic at the moment - not to mention physically taxing:

Friday afternoon - the whole afternoon with one-on-one sessions for Toby and Annie
Saturday - 6 hours of rehearsals for Toby
Yesterday - 2 1/2 hours. Tonight - 3-4 hours, etc, etc.

("Annie" and Toby, during one of the scenes)

Working with an animal is extremely sensitive work.  In Toby’s case we have to work towards getting his moves precise and we have to deal with any of his anxieties which may emerge at any stage. 
(Shannon McKay - McKaynine Training - going to reward Toby, for his 'stay')

Yesterday, for example, we were practicing the 'finale'. 
The WHOLE cast is on stage for this scene.  They sing, dance and gyrate.  All of this in close proximity to Toby.  And it is VERY loud!  In this scene, Toby is rolled onto stage in his crate (his personal, comfortable, secure place) and has to emerge into this VERY daunting/possibly threatening environment. 
(Tina, Maxmom and Shannon, discuss Toby's crate.  Toby inside)

In the first take, All the orphans crouched over him and shouted 'SANDY!'
("Annie" greets "Sandy" as he comes out of his crate, during the one-on-one rehearsal)

One person crouching over a dog is threatening at the best of times. Now add 7 more and a whole cast of people - some of whom are doing cartwheels and making strange moves. You can just imagine what Toby is going through....

He took one look at it all, darted back to his crate, fetched his soft ball and ran around frantically looking for someone to give it to.
(Very cute, yes...but there was obviously an underlying issue which had to be dealt with)

Well, Tina stopped all proceedings (despite the huge time constraints on the production) and got the entire cast to work with us.
“This is very sensitive work,” she announced.  “We all need to be quiet.”

The cast members were all asked to stand absolutely still, with their backs turned to Toby. Only Annie was asked to interact with him (he needs to develop confidence in her). Then slowly...each “orphan”, individually, was asked to turn around, crouch next to him and give him a treat. With Shannon's expert help, it seemed to work.

The second take was much, much better!
 Tina had changed the scene slightly...the orphans no longer lean over him and no longer shout 'SANDY'. They were moved into a position, slightly away from Toby and Annie, and all their 'scarves' had to be removed. Toby was much happier.
(Toby resting between the scenes)

It is painstaking work...extremely sensitive...and I have to watch my dear doggie like a hawk - for any signs of anxiety. I am VERY fussy about this!

Now picture a whole production - not just a scene - and you will be able to imagine the work involved, and my own anxiety about my special doggie.

The good news though, it that Toby has bonded beautifully with a number of members in the cast. Some spend a lot of time with him in the sidelines (between the scenes) - almost a form of therapy for them. Toby is generally very comfortable during rehearsals. He loves the limelight and loves the kids. He is cool with all the vast amounts of noise, dancing and activity and knows that his crate is his 'safe place'. Despite all this - we have to remember that there are no guarantees for the actual performances.
Afterall, he is a dog.

Most people will say that this is a thankless task:
No pay. An enormous amount of painstaking time and work, with very little acknowledgement, etc.
BUT I say otherwise....

This is something I have always wanted to do!
To me, it is an opportunity to experience a great event with my amazing, talented and beautiful companion animal - 
 I have always dreamed about this - having the opportunity to work with a dog and train him for a stage production.

There is also a 'lucky packet' to all of this...
Although one doesn't have any guarantees about how your dog will react at any given time, you will experience the clear emergence of the dog's personality. 
As his handler, you get to know your companion EXTREMELY well!

It is one of the biggest bonding experiences imaginable, and in this particular production, Toby and I have bonded like you can never imagine.

He is an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE animal! A dream to work with!
I have never, ever, seen a dog, who can put up with what he has had to face - and is facing at the moment.

This is truly 'a gift from God' ....and I am immensely blessed and grateful.

The cast absolutely adore him and they are bonding with him too.
As young performers, some of them are having their first interaction with an animal on stage - an important milestone in their own career development.
(I know that my goals and activities are all ultruistic, but this is who I am)

So, dear blogging friends...

At the moment, my mind is TOTALLY focussed on "Annie". And it will be so until the production is over.  On Sunday 29th May, I will be saying “Goodbye” to all that is Annie (and geesh, I am going to miss it!). We are currently working with some extremely professional people: directors, choreographers, dancing instructors, artists, stage hands, etc,etc.  Consequently, I have very little time to focus on blogposts - which I regard as my prime contact with my cyberfriends - a place where I share what I can. But at the moment, time and focus, distracts me.

Besides Annie, there is also my family to attend to. I rush home and try to deal with all the domesticity and keep my home on track. It’s not always easy.
(Shoes off...time to chill!)

Please bear with me in the weeks ahead.  I will blog when I can, but unfortunately won’t be visiting many of your blogs. 
Please know that I love you all immensely.
Sending lotsaluv to you all


Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

Incredibly impressed with the work and his response at his age too..
Well done
and "break a leg" Toby

Frankie Furter and Ernie said...

TWO WEEKS... are you getting nervous???

Jake of Florida said...

After reading your post, I so wish we could be there to share the performance -- anxiety and all -- with you. Where will you be during the performances? In the wings? In the audience?

How special this all is! And how commendable your approach!

Particularly since "No animals were harmed in the making of thie production!!" Au contraire!

Wirey love from the Boyz,


pilgrim said...

My dear Maxmom!! What an incredible experience - well done to you and Toby for this amazing achievement! I'm seriously considering coming up to attend one of the performances - will chat with my hubby and get back to you soonest so that you can arrange tickets for me!!

Oh my, that wil be like a Christmas gift to myself, from myself! Good luck with the rehearsals and don't worry about the blogging - I'm sure everyone understands...

Mrs. JP said...

Look at how God has brought about healing from the loss of your love MAX and gives you a memorial even with the taping date. Toby is truly a blessing. He seems to be doing so well and all this time spent will pay off in spades as he grows older. I know both of you are tired after rehearsals. We'll be praying for you to take care of yourself during all of this.
Love from all in the holler...

Tama-Chan, Gen-Chan, Vidock, Violette, Ollie, Hotesse & Heloise said...

It looks like it's going to be an amazing production! We're very proud of you, Toby!


Bouncing Bertie said...

Hey Toby, what a patient young lad you are! But I guess its good fun to have all that attention, eh? Now I know you won't turn in to one of those 'stage brat' types - we can rely on MaxMom to make sure you keep all four paws on the ground - well at least except when you are jumping into that swimming pool!
Toodle pip!

Amber-Mae said...

I can imagine how much WORK has been put into this play! Please please please take a video of the whole play. I would really LOVE to watch it especially the scenes where Toby will be acting in. You all did a wonderful job so far! I wish I could watch the play live.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Hello Caryl!! I first wanted to thank-you again for you kind and thoughtful words last week...As I have caught up on your blog, I continue to be so excited for Toby!! His being able to handle everything is a tribute to your knowing him and giving him the confidence that has allowed him to take all of this in stride! I would love to be there to see his big debut that I know will go wonderfully!!

♥I am Holly♥ said...

We are very proud of Toby!! What a job and he has been so great at a young age!! We hope you get a video of it!! Toby is a STAR!!! Lots of love, Holly & Mom

Anonymous said...

OMD Toby you sure is working hard boy!

I just KNOW that Max is looking down on you with such pride!

You go boy!

woo woos, Tessa

Mimi Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scout 'n Freyja said...

If I may - I think Toby needs to fill Toby's paws, not those of MAXDOG - only Max could do that. Toby is so unique that he deserves is own set of paws to fill and, boy, does he ever do a good job getting them filled to overflowing. What a pooch - and not even a year old!

Molly the Airedale said...

How we wish we could be a part of the audience on opening night!

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

Angel Ginger Jasper said...

I cant believe that it is almost a year since Max dog went to the bridge, time goes so fast. Max will be looking and approving of Toby and how well he is doing. Toby is indeed a very special woofie. Hugs GJ x

Brandon - The dog with a blog said...

Wow, it sounds like this play is going to be amazing!
Toby sure is doing a great job, and I'm looking forward to hearing more!!
I'm really enjoying all the pictures,

Rudy's Raiser

Two French Bulldogs said...

This is so exciting Toby...wish we were closer. Good luck
Benny & Lily

Milo and Alfie Marshall said...

We are VERY proud of Toby. He is a sooper-star for sure. Good luck wiv the performance.

STELLA and RORY from Down Under said...

Oh Toby, what a boy. You are one placid doggie for sure. Well done Mum on all your hard work too. Wishing you all the best for the production. Take care all, no worries, love Carol.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Toby is one amazing dog,, and I cannot believe that little itty bitty puppy who sniffed your hands when his eyes were yet sealed shut, has grown into this dedicated dog that not only is your life companion, but has grown to be in this amazing screen play.
Yes,, he was incredible from the day he was born.