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Its a dogs role

On March 4, from 2 to 4 p.m., David Kelly went searching for a dog.

He did not go to any pet store, take a puppy from a recent litter or even find a set of footprints leading away from his tipped garbage cans. He put an advertisement in the newspaper, calling for docile, obedient canines to come and meet him in the Elizabethan Courtyard at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on a Saturday afternoon. Then he waited. Sixteen phone calls later, he had a decent list of &

contestants,&

their owners all hoping for the bid.

Kelly&

s mission did not involve keeping the dog, however. An OSF actor, Kelly, 45, will soon play the character of Launce in the OSF&

s upcoming production of &

The Two Gentlemen of Verona.&

The comedic character also has a companion in the Shakespearean play: one that has no lines, walks on four legs and will be compensated with meat-flavored treats, as opposed to a paycheck.

On March 4, Kelly saw the contenders, all barking and eager to play, unaware that their playtime could became the beginning of their acting career. With several assistants, some taking pictures, others jotting down noteworthy qualities on paper, Kelly brought in the 16 dogs one at a time, inspecting them, and taking note of any unique qualities each individual dog possessed.

&

We&

re here to see if there&

s a dog that might spark some interest,&

said Kelly. &

It can&

t be something that&

ll just run around. I&

m just looking to see what&

s out there.&

The director of the production wanted Kelly to be the one to select the dog for compatibility reasons.

&

Usually, our auditions are of the human variety, so this is kind of a first,&

said Susan Whitmore, artistic assistant at the OSF. &

It has to do with how well they get along.&

The dog chosen will fill the part of Crab, Launce&

s friend and scapegoat. In it, Launce is written to be one of the more humorous characters, Crab serving as his outlet for a good portion of his ill-tempered wit. This is not the first time Kelly conducted this unique brand of auditioning. 20 years ago, in Boulder, Colo., Kelly acted in the same play, and held tryouts for his sidekick in the same fashion.

&

He&

s out there as Launce&

s friend and companion,&

said Amy Richard, the media relations manager for OSF. &

It&

s sort of a favorite character.&

Different directors in other venues have portrayed Crab in several different ways, including technically advanced puppets. Sometimes directors will employ a completely vacant leash, as though Launce were completely imagining his friend&

s existence.

&

People interpret this dog in very many ways,&

Richard said. &

For this production, we decided to use a real dog.&

Several of the entrants caught Kelly&

s eye, notably for the uniqueness of the tricks they could perform. Honey, a larger dog with bright yellow fur, rolled over when told to show what &

bad girls do on a Saturday night.&

Terwilliger, a Jack Russell Terrier from Medford, played dead when asked the question: &

Would you rather be a Republican or a dead dog?&

Several owners described further tricks the dogs would do.

&

There&

ll be a certain discovery process during rehearsals,&

said Eddie Wallace, a media relations employee at OSF.

OSF&

s last production of &

Verona&

happened in 1997. Veteran actor Robert Vincent Frank played the part of Launce, with another local dog named Bruiser playing Crab. According to Whitmore, audiences loved it.

&

It&

s always a favorite,&

she said.

Rehearsals for &

Verona&

are to begin April 5. The play will open on June 8, and run twice a week through Oct. 8.