From left, Kashi Johnson, an acting professor in Lehigh’s department of theatre, and Leah Canel, '21, perform a rehearsal for the theatre department’s fall play “Dog Act” in Zoellner Arts Center’s Diamond Theater. Dog Act can be seen through Saturday, Oct. 6. (Courtesy of Sarah dePillis)

“Dog Act” explores a post-apocalyptic world

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A post-apocalyptic world covered in trash and wetlands sets the scene for “Dog Act,” the theatre department’s fall play.

Written by Liz Duffy Adams, the dark comedy vaudeville — a genre of theater primarily made up of comedic acts intertwined with song and dance — brings to life a world in which the ordinary is far out of reach. 

“It’s not a play that’s rooted in realistic truth,” said Leah Canel, ’21, who plays Vera Similitude in the play. “The audience has to find aspects of the play they can relate to, and they have to step out of the reality that they know in order to find a love for the characters.”

The play follows a traveling duo, Zetta Stone, played by theater professor Kashi Johnson, and her companion dog, played by Daniel Enrique Palomeque, ’20. Along the way, travelers unite with foragers and create unlikely friendships to find a glimpse of hope in their shattered world. 

The staged play is filled with real-life hardships mixed with humor. Through zeal and passion, the actors bring to life a world in which day-to-day dramatic changes of season are the norm, along with a single cart of belongings. 

“The use of language, the dynamic characters, the decision of communities and what they decide to do in times of extreme trauma is what makes the play unique,” said Pam Pepper, a professor of acting and directing and the director of the play.

Pepper said the actors were challenged to master the script’s early 20th-century language.

“Each character has their own different kind of language and making sense of all of those creative and unusual words was paramount to the performance,” Pepper said. 

Canel said she initially struggled to embrace the language of the script. 

“There is a lot of text in the show and a lot of the text has vocabulary and language that I personally don’t use,” Canel said. “Because of the post-apocalyptic world, there’s French and Latin and references to Spanish. Gaining a mastery of the lines in order to deliver them in a way that seems natural as a character is very difficult.”

Pepper said despite being written 10 years ago, the play is still relatable. Throughout rehearsal, she and others involved in “Dog Act” would marvel over how wise Adams was in writing the play.

Audience members said the play exceeded their expectations because of its distinctive qualities. 

“The setting was unique,” Jason Mak, ’19, said. 

“Dog Act” can be seen at Zoellner Arts Center’s Diamond Theater through Oct. 6.

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