Playwright Dori Appel, center, and the cast of ìFar From the Zoo, fool around with the set animals during rehearsal. They are, clockwise from the top, Joe Caron, David Dials, Cory Davison, Brandy Carson, Appel, Ronda Bagley and Jacqueline Sundin. - Photo by Denise Baratta

'Far From the Zoo' at Randall Theatre

Theatre Artists for Animals celebrates pets and the people who love them with playwright Dori Appel's "Far From the Zoo" — a series of mostly comic vignettes that aims to raise awareness about homeless animals and raise funds to care for them.

The theater group and the project were conceived by Appel to express gratitude for local shelters and volunteers, and to spotlight the needs of homeless animals.

"All the money will go to the five shelters in the area," Appel says. "Our animal shelters have all come such a long way, and they are doing so much to help animals and people. It's heartening seeing what they have accomplished."

"Far From the Zoo" is directed by Tamara Marston, a longtime performer and director in the valley whom Appel describes as a dynamo.

"I'm so grateful for Tamara. She is an incredible director and a lovely person," Appel says. "We've got a great group of people. Susan Russell is the producer and technical director. I can't believe what she accomplishes in a day."

The show will feature a cast of local actors: Brandy Carson, David Dials, Joe Caron, Rhonda Bagley, Jacqueline Sundin and Corey Davison.

Some of the short pieces include "Monkeyshines," in which a young man meeting his girlfriend's parents for the first time experiences an animal-related, stress-induced regression; "The Cat's Meow," in which two middle-aged men face the challenge of knitting with cat hair while watching football on TV; and "Walking the Dog at Night," in which a woman waits anxiously on a dark city street for her dog to do its business.

The show also will include Appel's poetry — two poems about young girls and horses, and one about the adoption of a dog who had been through very hard times.

The shows are an act of love, Appel says.

"I can't emphasize enough my admiration for our local shelter volunteers. Their spirit and energy are incredible, and all of them are such hard-working people," she says. "I've written a lot about animals and our relationship with them because it is a subject so dear to me."

Appel says she hopes the play will be used by other shelters in the future for their fundraising projects. She is waiving royalty fees for productions of the show that will benefit animal shelters. For this production, cast and crew also are volunteering their time.

Appel is an award-winning playwright based in Ashland. Her plays have been widely produced. She is a three-time winner of the Oregon Book Award in Drama for her plays "Freud's Girls," "The Lunatic Within" and "Lost and Found." She also is a widely published poet and the author of a collection of poems, "Another Rude Awakening."

The play will be performed in theaters in Medford, Grants Pass and Ashland. Proceeds from the shows will benefit the Southern Oregon Humane Society, Friends of the Animal Shelter and Committed Alliance to Strays. The Grants Pass performances will benefit the Rogue Valley Humane Society and Shelter Friends.

Appel is a longtime supporter of regional animal shelters, serving on the board of the humane society a number of years ago and offering her time when she is able.

"I have also adopted many pets over the years," she says. Appel's adopted dog Maggie inspired one of the poems in the show.

Appel says she wants her writing to reflect her feelings about this cause and to connect with others.

"I care very much about this subject, and I want to do something that resonates with people," she says.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.

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