UVic alumni directs play addressing identity and adolescence through teenage Peanuts characters
How does life change as we transition out of childhood? Theatre Inconnu explores this question in their upcoming play, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. Directed by UVic MFA alumnus and former theatre professor Morgan Gadd, Dog Sees God presents the complexity of adolescence through the Peanuts gang.
“The Charlie Brown comic strip is really a classic,” Gadd says. “The play is written in a series of 22 scenes. Each scene is almost like it’s own self-contained comic strip. There’s a nice balance between comedy and drama.”
The play reimagines the famous Peanuts characters in high school, dealing with relatable issues and emotions like sexuality, bullying, and social groups.
“It’s been said that adolescence is like having an emotional flu for several years in a row,” Gadd laughs. “The problem with adolescence is you’re not a kid anymore and you’re not an adult either. Where do we fit? What do you do about that? … It’s a time of great transition.”
The play, written by Bert V. Royal, was originally produced as part of the 2004 New York Fringe Festival. After winning best production, Royal went on to have a successful writing career. One of his biggest hits was writing the film Easy A starring Academy Award winner Emma Stone.
According to Gadd, a major theme in Dog Sees God is identity.
“If you don’t find your people, you could be searching for the rest of your life,” Gadd explains. “One of the great searches of adolescence is can you find your people?”
These themes resonate with Gadd on a personal level. He recalls the struggle of searching for his identity as an artist. “I was going down an academic route, but I felt most alive in theatre, onstage performing,” he says, mentioning his degree in biology and anthropology. Gadd spent years working professionally in theatre before returning to school for an MFA in Theatre Directing at UVic. This was where he met Theatre Inconnu founder Clayton Jevne.
Gadd went on to work as a theatre educator at UVic and in the United States before being recruited to teach in China. “I was there for twelve years. I just loved it. What I found was that Hong Kong was going through a real renaissance in theatre production. They had created a performing arts school kind of like the Canadian College of Performing Arts.” This provided an opportunity for students to further develop technique and create their own theatre companies.
Now retired, Gadd remains eager to work with young artists. Dog Sees God features a cast of emerging actors, including UVic theatre student Tianxu Zhao. Speaking to how this play is relevant in 2021, Gadd mentions, “University students will see themselves in these Charlie Brown characters. They’re around the same age as incoming students at UVic. These are issues they’re facing too.”
Now that theatres are able to offer live performances again, the importance of sharing an experience as a group is emphasized. “Our true identity maybe isn’t so much our individual identity, but who we are as a group,” Gadd says. “That’s what theatre celebrates. It asks the question: what’s the value of a human life?”
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead runs at Theatre Inconnu from November 30th to December 18th. Tickets are $14 regular and $10 senior/students.