Today I brought my dog to rehearsal.

Let me be clear — taking your dog to rehearsal is a very UNPROFESSIONAL THING TO DO. But Rocco (that’s the dog) is small and adorable and he spent this past week giving me sad dog eyes every time I left for work, so I broke down and put him in a cab and took him along. (Please note: he’s massively cute and uses that cuteness to totally manipulate me.) Also, in my paltry defense, he is an experienced rehearsal dog who has seen many shows in his seven years, so he knows how to chill during work time and then mingle during Equity-approved breaks. Quite frankly, he knows the Equity break schedule better than most Equity stage managers, so he fits right in.

But I’m also feeling very self-aware that I took my pet to the theatre, so I’m hoping the cast and crew all think that this makes me a delightfully eccentric writer instead of a crazy-guy-who-takes-his-dog-everywhere-and-probably-uses-him-as-a-substitute-for-real-human-interaction. (Truth be told, what I find most comforting about my dog is that he’s the one being in my life who never gives me notes on how to make any of my shows better.)

As Rocco sleeps, Tony-Award-winning actor-manipulator John Rando is staging our big love ballad — “Hot Toxic Love.” Now, ballads are often staged with the two lovers simply standin’ and embracin’ and singin’ their lovin’ hearts out. But John is giving the number a hyper-comic staging, including directing one of the lovers to wander off stage for a large part of the number. I’ve, uh, never, uh, quite seen anything like it. You would think composer/rockstar David Bryan would be throwing a fit at his leading lady singin’ his big love symphony off-stage, but he is too busy laughing hysterically. Rocco just continues to sleep.

A quick note about comedy — who the hell knows what makes one person funny and one not. I’ve seen actors walk into an audition and start to read a scene and immediately make me double over in laughter. And then I’ve seen other actors read the exact same scene and by the second page I feel as if I’m stuck watching the fourth hour of “Mourning Becomes Electra.” So I’m sendin’ much appreciative love to the five comic whirlwinds rehearsing on stage right now.

Also right now, Rocco is snoring loudly and the actors are wondering who is sleeping while they’re doin’ their damndest to entertain us. I bravely pretend like this is not happening.

So after six grueling days of rehearsing, tomorrow (Monday) is our day off. That’s the way it works in theatre — six days on, one day off. And I have to say that as we near the end of week one, all is going remarkably smoothly. As of today, the jokes are still making us laugh and David’s melodies are still happily rockin’ in our brains. But having been through this drill before, I fully realize that sometime around the end of week 2, familiarity will rear its ugly head, and these same jokes will lose all their delight and the melodies will have that I-can’t-get-them-out-of-my-head-no-matter-how-hard-I-try feeling. And I, in turn, will start to question my taste level and my talent.

But that’s not till next week! Right now, Toxic rocks! Hell, even Rocco has risen from his usual stupor to stare at the stage. I take that as a hopeful sign from God.

Be sure to tune in next week as we get closer to our first preview and the anxiety level heightens.

Till then —
Much, much love,
Joe, the crazy-guy-who-takes-his-dog-everywhere-and-probably-uses-him-as-a-substitute-for-real-human-interaction.