ORLANDO — When it comes to the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, the subjects of the shows are as diverse as the performers. There are comedies, dramas, magic shows, dance recitals, and everything in between.
So why not a show about dogs as well?
That’s exactly what Jackie Cunningham is doing with her show, Just a Dog, Right? A longtime and passionate lover of our four-legged friends, Jackie said this show will offer “an original collection of my favorite true stories about how wonderful dogs are, how much they add to our lives, and basically how a dog could never be ‘just a dog’.” This 45 minute show, she added, is a family-friendly piece appropriate for all ages.
Jackie, an actress and storyteller who is also the Arizoni Award-winning playwright of Do You Love an Apple?, said the stories in Just A Dog, Right? will range from heartbreaking to heartwarming, and all of them are true stories about our greatest companions.
Freeline Media decided to was time to find out more from Jackie about this show.
How Did The Show Just A Dog, Right? Get Created?
Freeline Media: Tell us about how you decided to create a show around dog stories?
Jackie Cunningham: I am a fan of soooooo many dog pages on Facebook, and I see so many great stories posted that most people never hear about. Even when you do see a story in passing (“Hero dog saves owner from being hit by train!”), you usually don’t hear the whole back story about the dog and the family. It’s fascinating. There are a great deal of wonderful stories out there, and I have collected some of my favorites. Also, I was inspired by several beautiful shows by great artists at prior Fringes, including “For Love, Sir” (Mikaela Duffy, Orlando Fringe 2018) and “The 13 Dead Dreams of Eugene” (Paul Strickland & Erika Kate MacDonald, Orlando Fringe 2018).
FM: Are you aiming for something universal here, a message about the bond between people and dogs?
Jackie: Yes, absolutely. Dogs don’t care if you are rich or poor, overweight, have dry skin, or don’t feel like washing your dishes today. When a dog chooses you to be his person, you are truly blessed.
FM: How long have you been passionate about our four legged friends?
Jackie: It has been about 14 years. I took a lot of hits, one right after the other, in my personal life in 2004-2005. The pure, unconditional love of a little dog that I met soon afterwards made such a huge difference in my outlook on life and my optimism as I moved forward.
FM: Tell us about Jackie Bierer Cunningham’s own theatrical background.
Jackie: I have been performing in one capacity or another since I was three. I started playing violin at that age after sitting in on my older brother’s lessons and precociously announcing “I could do that better than him.” As a child I studied acting/singing with the Sarasota Children’s Opera Guild. As an adult I studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute in Manhattan. I was a Regional and Dinner Theater actress for several years, all over the U.S. I originated the role of Catherine Barton in “Sir Isaac’s Duel.” I have performed in six different productions of “Fiddler on the Roof,” but that’s ok because it’s my favorite musical.
FM: After Fringe, what’s next for Jackie?
Jackie: Other Fringes! I would like to take this show to other festivals. I am also working on writing two more shows.
Just a Dog is being performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival in the Red Venue on the following dates:
* Wednesday May 15 at 7:15 p.m.
* Saturday May 18 at 4 p.m.
* Sunday May 19 at 12:45 p.m.
* Tuesday May 21 at 6:15 p.m.
* Thursday May 23 at 7:45 p.m.
* Friday May 24 at 9:30 p.m.
* Sunday May 26 at 5 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the Festival box office and at Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.