COURTESY ARMY COMMUNITY THEATRE
In Army Community Theatre's production of "Annie," Channing Weir takes on the title role, and Star plays her beloved dog, Sandy.
Star may have no lines in "Annie," but that doesn't lessen her limelight. The young labradoodle plays Annie's dog, Sandy, a role guaranteed to attract attention.
Labradoodles are bred to be service dogs, a mix of labrador (for loyalty and loving personality) and poodle (for intelligence). To make them even more special, they don't shed.
On stage: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 24 and 25, and Dec. 1
Place: Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter
Tickets: $15 and $20; $15 and $12 children
Call: 438-4480 or visit squareone.org/ACT
"Star has been trained not to bark," explained Anne Marie MacPherson, a puppy raiser who works with Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs. "Service dogs need to be able to deal with distractions and focus on their owners."
Susan Luehrs, executive director of Hawaii Fi-Do, an agency that matches service dogs to people with disabilities, hopes the skills Star is learning on stage will help her when she is placed with a new owner.
"When dogs are being trained, they are exposed to all different things -- noises, distractions, people and smells," Luehrs said. "They need to be listening and able to respond."
"Annie's" human stars are Channing Weir as Annie, Shari Lynn as Miss Hannigan, Leonard Piggee as Oliver Warbucks and Ethan Okura as Rooster.
At rehearsal, the labradoodle is exposed to cast members, lights, noises and more. In one challenging scene, Sandy is called, but must remain still. In off-leash appearances, Star needs to remain calm and focused.
"Dogs never give the same performance twice. How they respond in the theater depends upon what is going on around them," MacPherson said.
Different treats are used to reinforce behaviors. Sometimes, it turns into a "family affair," according to MacPherson. "She has to run across from one side of the stage to the other. My husband is on one side giving her the command to go to me on the other side," she said.
But Star is becoming quite accustomed to theater life. She sat in the audience during Diamond Head Theatre's "Into the Woods" and recently visited Farrington High School's T-Shirt Theater. "HTY also let us come to 'Go Dog Go,'" said MacPherson. "They were throwing balls around and the kids were bouncing off the walls."
But all work and no play won't keep Star motivated. "If dogs are overworked, they can get bored ... then they have to find things to amuse themselves. Sometimes I need to decide between taking her to the beach to let her run around and just be a dog, or going to rehearsal."
The key is finding a balance, MacPherson added. Like people, "dogs work best when they are happy and motivated."