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Stray dogs star in Croatian play

Stray dogs are playing star roles in a groundbreaking Croatian show that has won rave reviews for raising awareness about abandoned canines and homeless people.

The play is based on Paul Auster’s 1999 novel “Timbuktu,” a dog-narrated tale of a hobo poet and his canine companion, Mr. Bones, whose wanderings come to an end in Baltimore. (Auster was profiled in Salon about seven years ago.)

The Croation production, directed by Borut Separovic, premiered in Zagreb earlier this month.

The director cast a dozen strays from a Zagreb animal shelter, with the main role of “Kosta” (Mr. Bones) played by Cap, an eight-year-old champion border collie.

The play consists mainly of a 45-minute monologue by Mr. Bones, with narration provided by an actor from his chair in the audience. Mr. Bones, according to an AFP article, receives quiet orders from instructor Alen Marekovic in the front row as he recounts the story of his life with his deceased master Willy.

“It’s a story that emphasises the incredible love between a dog and his master, a homeless person,” Separovic told AFP.

“Timbuktu offers a therapeutic insight into how not to interpret democracy solely through rights, but also through responsibly and solidarity towards others.”

At one point, the 12 stray dogs come on stage, a net falls between them and the audience and the play switches to the style of a documentary. The narrator tells the audience: “These dogs have a story which resembles that of Kosta’s. We call on you to provide them a home. You can contact me after the show.”

“For me it was extremely important that real, abandoned dogs appear in the play and be given a chance to be adopted,” said Separovic.

Separovic stressed the play also aimed at focussing attention on the fate of homeless people, 12 of whom play a role from the audience.

The team hopes that all the stray dogs involved will be adopted during the 11 performances in October.

Separovic said he set out to enlighten audiences through the project, which he says he created for his 10-year-old daughter Katarina and dedicated to his 13-year-old black labrador Max.

“I would like young people to understand that it’s important to take care of others, those who are in a worse situation then we are,” he said.

Comments

Comment from Mary Schmidt
Time October 21, 2008 at 8:59 pm

I liked Auster’s novel a lot, and I hope video from this play makes it to YouTube sometime. It must be quite a performance–one star border collie joined by homeless people and dogs.

I can’t help but think that a society where efforts are being made to help the vulnerable is a society on the mend. Much better news out of Zagreb than we had in the early 1990s.

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