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Agile actors bring 'Call of the Wild' to life at Barter

staff report • Sep 28, 2011 at 1:46 AM

Only six actors comprise the cast of Barter Theatre’s adaptation of Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild,” but this small group will portray everything from sled dogs to Yeehat Indians to goldseekers. The Barter Players will present “The Call of the Wild” beginning today at Barter Stage II. The one-hour production, based on the book by Jack London and adapted by Barter Theatre playwright-in-residence Catherine Bush, runs through Nov. 12. Either in middle school or high school, many students are required to read the story of Buck, a St. Bernard/sheep dog mix living the good life until he is stolen and sold to a dog trader. Strong dogs are needed to pull sleds when the Klondike Gold Rush gains momentum. London’s coming-of-age tale of a personified dog focuses on Buck as he goes from an easy life as a domesticated dog in the United States to the harsh, cold Klondike to work as a sled dog. He will need to learn the “laws of club and fang” and, finally, to answer the call of the wild. “I have directed over 100 plays in my career and I have never directed anything like this,” said director John Hardy. “This play is that interesting, exciting and unusual.” The manner in which the dogs walk, run, pull the sled and fight is one theatrical convention both Hardy and Bush agreed was crucial to the success of “The Call of the Wild.” “Our goal is to create the ‘essence’ of dog, not the reality. In reality, a human being crawling around on his hands and knees looks like, well, a human being crawling around on his hands and knees. A dog’s ability to run, change direction at a moment’s notice, fight, eat, etc. requires an actor’s mobility and, for that, we need the actor — the human — to be upright,” Bush said. “The Barter Players are a fierce group of up-and-coming theatre artists. Keep in mind that they not only play dogs and wolves, but gold-seekers and Yeehat Indians as well. One of them will even transform into a moose.” The Barter Players also portray a train ride, a boat ride, a team of dogs pulling a sled through the Alaskan wilderness, a moose hunt with an 8-foot-tall moose, a pack of wolves, a sled falling through the ice and more. As a bonus, The Husky Rescue Assist of Bristol will be on hand after the Saturday morning performances on Oct. 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Barter Stage II. The organization will have rescue Husky puppies and dogs for audiences to interact with and will share information about the group’s rescue efforts. “The Call of the Wild” is sponsored by Grundy National Bank, while The Barter Players’ 2011 season is sponsored by Alpha Natural Resources and Blue Ridge Public Television. For tickets to this or any other production from Barter, call (276) 628-3991 or visit w w w. B a r t e r T h e a t r e . c o m .

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