My Favorite Backstage Moment During “A Christmas Story.”
One of the hardest things about working backstage on the current run of “A Christmas Story” at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle is having to ignore these hounds every time they walk past me. Even though I fell head-over-heels for the canine duo the second I saw them, my love remains unknown to them and totally unrequited. Cue the violins.
It’s okay. Just as I have a job to do as dresser of the girls’ ensemble in the show, Pete and Lily have a job to do, from which they cannot be distracted. Unfortunately for all the humans in the cast and crew, Pete and Lily can only bond with the people with whom they interact in their roles as The Bumpus Hounds. That would include their handler, Schuyler Beeman; assistant stage manager Rachel Bury; and Dane Stokinger, who plays The Old Man in the show.
Pete and Lily are no strangers to the stage. They’re reprising their roles from the Broadway production of “A Christmas Story”, for which they were trained by William Berloni, of Theatrical Animals. Mr. Berloni has trained every dog on Broadway since “Annie” first opened in 1977.
For those of you who have been living in a cave or on another planet for the past thirty years and have never seen the movie version of “A Christmas Story”, The Old Man is the dad of the main character, Ralphie. He’s continually tormented by the pack of hound dogs belonging to the neighbor, Mr. Bumpus.
That brings us to my favorite moment of the show.
In the opening scene, I stand backstage waiting to hand off a couple of coats and hats to two of the actors. While I wait in the wings for the house set to move offstage so I can step into position, I watch the show on the monitor. I get to see Pete and Lily make their first cross, chasing The Old Man across the stage. I look down from the monitor to see Dane run into the wings, then turn, kneeling as he reaches into his coat pockets. Pete and Lily catch up to him just in time to be fed their treats and given some good-dog scritches to their hound dog heads.
I love that moment. The contrast between The Old Man’s vitriolic outcry against the much-hated hounds and Dane’s tender care for them is touching. It’s a moment that reminds me nightly how much I love being backstage during performances. I get to see things in a way that the audience doesn’t.
The show behind the show. You can’t buy a ticket to that.
There’s still time to see this wonderful production of “A Christmas Story” at the 5th Avenue Theater, now through Dec. 30, 2014. For tickets, visit:
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