Sarasota Opera holds a doggie casting call

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SARASOTA, Fla. - So you want to be a star? Tuesday a lot of beginners got their chance, showing up for a casting call in hopes of landing a featured role in the upcoming opera "Of Mice and Men". But this was a little different kind of audition. It was for dogs.

Sarasota Opera is auditioning for a dog to play a very important role in the upcoming production of "Of Mice and Men." It's a very difficult role; the dog will be surrounded by bright lights, loud music, and angry voices.

"We're going to have them do a simple set of commands while we do a scene from the opera. We'll get to see the dogs interact with the singers as they're singing with the pianist, and we'll see how they take that direction," said assistant artistic director Rob Holland.

The dog also has to have a certain look. "Unkempt, a little rough, kinda on its last legs."

The part also calls for a herding dog. Jean Smith thinks her border collie mix Pede is a shoe-in. "Because he's right for the part; I think he looks the part, he looks like an old herding dog because he is an old herding dog."

But Coco's owner is betting on her big shaggy Belgian farm dog. “She just loves people, she loves attention, she's so happy when she's around a group of people and she likes music," says Fonda Giacoia.

However, this was Coco's first taste of opera, and she seems shocked at being that close to three such powerful singers.

Giacoia admits she's something of a stage mother herself. She loved acting in college so, now she wants Coco to try it.

Jeanine Brawn is a professional dog trainer. She's banking on a big career for her dog Ben. She said this was his first taste of opera, and you could tell he was stunned at what he was hearing. "He's never heard opera, and he’s never heard any singing that loud before. So he was twitching his ears, he was cocking his head, he was looking at different people. So he figured out it was people making these sounds."

The dog chosen will have to walk on the stage with one of the singers, lie there for 20 minutes as up to 15 singers crowd the stage, shout and argue in song about whether he should be shot or not. Through it all the dog must remain calm.

Video were taken Tuesday of each of the seven dogs as they went through their paces. "We're going to send it to our stage director in New York, and tonight and we'll go from there we'll see who's the right dog for the part."

And may the best dog win. We'll let you know which dog gets the part as soon as there's a decision.

“Of Mice and Men" is at the Sarasota Opera March 9th through the 23rd.

And yes, the dogs do get paid.