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‘Dog Sees God’ runs through Oct. 9 with message: ‘Everyone’s valuable’

The new MTSU Theatre production of the award-winning “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” has a sincere message for its audience: Reach out and get to know the person next to you.

“Dog Sees God,” written by Bert V. Royal, opened Sept. 30 and runs through Friday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre inside the Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium. A searchable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParking2015-16.

Student director Skylar Grieco, left, of Knoxville, discusses the new MTSU Theatre production of "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” with cast members Jay Mullins, center, also from Knoxville, who portrays "CB," and Ben George of Murfreesboro, who plays "Beethoven." The award-winning off-Broadway play runs Sept. 30-Oct. 2, Oct. 4 and Oct. 6-9 in MTSU's Tucker Theatre. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Student director Skylar Grieco, left, of Knoxville, discusses the new MTSU Theatre production of “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” with cast members Jay Mullens, center, also from Knoxville, who portrays “CB,” and Ben George of Murfreesboro, who plays “Beethoven.” The award-winning off-Broadway play runs through Oct. 9 in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Tickets for the MTSU Arts performances, sponsored by Ascend Federal Credit Union, are available online at http://ow.ly/SDSxp and at the theater box office an hour before curtain times.

The off-Broadway hit speculates how the beloved children of the “Peanuts” comic strip are facing adolescence. The verdict: Not well.

The round-headed kid with the zigzag T-shirt has suffered some horrible losses and is trying to come to grips with love and life. His baby sister, who never wanted to be accused of taking part in a rumble, has gone Goth — or maybe gangster. His fussbudget girlfriend’s been institutionalized.

The blanket-carrying philosopher smokes pot. The walking dust storm has become a germ-phobic, homophobic jock. The thoughtful piano prodigy is a school outcast looking for acceptance.

“I read it for the first time about two years ago and immediately fell in love with it,” explains director Skylar Grieco, a junior theatre major from Knoxville. “I’d work in a scene from it here and there every chance I’d get.

“When the (MTSU Theatre) season selection committee chose this show, I immediately submitted my application to direct it. To get a chance to do the whole thing is pretty awesome, to say the least.”

Click on the poster for ticket information.

Click on the poster for ticket information.

Grieco learned last spring that he’d be directing “Dog Sees God” and began working immediately with the design production team for scenery, lighting, costumes and the like. Hopefuls auditioned in late August, and the eight-member cast and full crew have been preparing since then.

“I knew I’d love to do this play somewhere, at some point. It’s just a beautiful piece,” says Ben George, a senior theatre major from Murfreesboro who portrays the piano prodigy called, for parody’s sake, “Beethoven.”

“I hope to remind people not to exclude someone who’s unique from the social aspects of school and life. He has to deal with a lot of bullying, and I’m hoping to get people to realize the consequences of that so they’ll reach out and get to know someone for who he or she is.”

MTSU Arts logoKnoxville native Jay Mullens, a sophomore theatre major who’s portraying the zigzag T-shirted guy, says the cast and crew has worked exceptionally well together and “the process has gotten better every day.”

“An important part of CB’s character is getting across that social inclusion is necessary, no matter who you are,” Mullens adds. “That’s a very important message for everybody to hear: Everyone’s valuable in their own ways, and no one should be treated differently, or cruelly, just because they’re different.”

“Dog Sees God” won the New York International Fringe Festival’s 2004 Excellence Award for Best Overall Production. It also received Theatermania’s Play Award of 2004, the GLAAD Media Award for Best Off-Off-Broadway production, Broadway.com’s 2006 Audience Award for Favorite Off-Broadway Production and the 2006 HX Award for Best Play.

The director and cast of MTSU’s production are encouraging thoughtful parental guidance for the performances, noting that the play has very strong language and refers to drug use, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, rebellion and sexual identity.

“‘Dog Sees God’ is very relevant to younger people in their teens and 20s,” Grieco says, “because they’re figuring out who they are and how they interact with the world. Almost all of us know these characters as children, and now we’ll see them as confused teenagers.”

General admission tickets are $10 each and $5 for K-12 students and senior citizens. MTSU students with valid IDs will be admitted free. For more information, visit http://mtsuarts.com.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

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