Round up the herd

Brüka Theatre’s new children’s play is Old West fun for the whole family

Clockwise from left, Scott Beers, Rachael Lewis, Tom Plunkett and Mary Bennett prove it’s a dog-eat-dog world in <i>The Good, The Bad, and The Artdog: A Spaghetti Western With Meatballs.</i>

Clockwise from left, Scott Beers, Rachael Lewis, Tom Plunkett and Mary Bennett prove it’s a dog-eat-dog world in The Good, The Bad, and The Artdog: A Spaghetti Western With Meatballs.

There’s a new top dog in town, and his name is Artdog.

Brüka Theatre’s newest children’s play sends the recurring character of Arty the Artdog—a half-man, half-dog hero—back to the Old West. This “dog with no collar” is determined to save a small town from an unlikely menace: a group of pasta-stealing bandits, the Pastaleros, made up of Don Rigatoni and his henchmen, Luigi Linguini and Noodles.

Will Artdog save the day? Or will the carbohydrate-nabbing rascals get the upper hand?

You’ll have to see for yourself when The Good, The Bad and The Artdog: A Spaghetti Western With Meatballs opens April 20. Penned by Michael Grimm and adapted by the actors, the play is a parody of every spaghetti western you’ve ever seen, says player Mary Bennett.

Actor Tom Plunkett calls it “an homage to Clint Eastwood,” right down to the Mexican serape and trademark Eastwood scowl. Plunkett wrote three songs for the production, and promises there will be plenty of “meatball hoe-downs and showdowns.”

All of the plays in the Artdog series are designed for a maximum of creativity, originality and fun, says player Rachael Lewis. (True to form, there are no uncomfortable seats for tykes to squirm in—the tiered seating area will be covered in carpet so kids can sit cross-legged on the floor.) The plays also call for a lot of audience interaction, and come in at about an hour long.

“That’s the last thing you want to do, is make them sit still for two hours,” Lewis says of Artdog’s young fans.

And there are a lot of fans.

“We have a lot of followers,” she says. “These kids get bigger year by year. We try to make it fun for adults, too.”

Lewis says sometimes adults buy tickets for the show sans kiddies, and high school students often come to watch, too. Bennett adds that a group of 50 students from Fernley High School will be in the audience for one of the shows next week.

This production is the latest in a long line of children’s theater at Brüka. In fact, the company got its start doing only children’s plays, primarily adaptations of fairy tales. Lewis estimates that Brüka has performed about 60 children’s plays in the eight years the company has been in existence.

Artdog was created when, in Lewis’ words, “We just got tired of the fairy tales.” And although some might think the furry hero’s name is a play off of local shop Artdog & Grace, it’s just a cosmic coincidence (or maybe evidence of a “creative consciousness,” Lewis says, laughing). “Artdog” is a term used for artists who make props and sets in the film and video industries, in which Brüka founder Scott Beers once worked. Taking on that moniker a little while longer, Beers always plays the role of Artdog in the shows.

Each year, the group collectively decides on themes for new Artdog adventures, and the range of themes is as far-reaching as the players’ imaginations. In February, Brüka presented Articus and the Glass Hammer: Artdog’s Greek Odyssey, in which the title character traveled to ancient Greece to try to discover the mystery of the Golden Fleas.

And while parents may chuckle at the highbrow literary references, and while kids may giggle at the physical theatrics, Artdog plays are also designed to teach “important lessons about human values and relationships,” according to a promotional flyer.

“We’re giving back to the community, and to the kids," Lewis says.