Wednesday, February 11, 2015

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

    You've read about 9-year-old Timmy Woodward Jr.'s recent star turn as Gavroche in The Media Theatre's production of "Les Miserables." But the son of Montgomery County lawyers Timothy Woodward and Maureen C. Coggins of Upper Hanover has some acting competition and it's all in the family.
    Family pet "Big," an 11-year-old male Jack Russell Terrier, has a role in The Media Theatre's current production of "The Miracle Worker."
"Big" /Photo Courtesy Timothy Woodward
    "It is his first acting role," said Coggins, explaining theater officials visited the family's home last summer and were naturally charmed by Big. "The director said he would be perfect for the role of Helen Keller's dog, Belle, which we have not informed Big yet is actually a female.
    "He has great range and he's a professional, so he'll be fine with the role," laughed Coggins, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
    There is no understudy so Big likely will appear in every performance. Big appears in two scenes during the production.
    "I don't think I've seen such depth in a character since 'Lassie,'" Coggins, obviously a proud stage mother, joked.
    Coggins admits she was concerned that at 11-years-old Big might not be up to the feat of performing on stage. However, she learned the role is not a very physical one.
    "I was worried because I didn't know what they wanted from him, because he doesn't know any tricks. He's a farm dog. We don't have performing dogs. We have rough farm dogs. The director said he had to learn how to sit," said Coggins, who then proved wrong the old adage that "You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks."
    "I taught him how to sit for the play. So, you can teach an old dog new tricks," Coggins laughed heartily.
    But the role of Belle is not a speaking role. No barking required.
    "It is not a speaking part, so he does not get his SAG card," Coggins quipped.
     Nor a membership card to Actors' Equity, I presume.
    The show's director also asked Timmy Woodward to appear in the show as "Percy." Little Timmy and his dog Big do not have any scenes together. But Coggins said Timmy is thrilled his beloved pet has joined him in the production.
Timmy Woodward Jr./Photo Courtesty Woodward Family
   "Naturally, he's very proud. We don't have a conflict," Coggins smiled.

Thank you, Maureen, for the lighthearted discussion and for taking part in one of the funniest interviews I've conducted. Your sense of humor is always appreciated.

And best of luck Big and Timmy.

(NOTE: The play "The Miracle Worker" runs through Feb. 15 at The Media Theatre)

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