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Seattle Rep goes to the dogs

Clouseau, a schnauzer from Sammamish, was among 100 dogs in attendance at "Dogs Night Out" Sunday at The Seattle Rep.
Florangela Davila
Clouseau, a schnauzer from Sammamish, was among 100 dogs in attendance at "Dogs Night Out" Sunday at The Seattle Rep.

Last night’s crowd at Seattle Repertory Theatre was anything but ordinary at a first-of-its kind, tail-wagging cultural event.

There was the "welcome" message, for example, as the audience arrived at the theater doors.

"We have a little pee patch there in case your doggie should desire to go to the bathroom," said an usher to patrons filing in.

Yes, a “pee” patch. Treats and plenty of head rubs were also on hand for 100 dogs attending the theater with their humans in tow.

When the Rep announced this one-night-only event, folks jumped at the chance to fork over cash and spend the evening out with their pooch.

Mitch Murdoch brought his 5-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Jack.

"I’ve been a season ticket holder at the Rep for years and it was really kind of cool to bring one of my dogs. I’ve got three so it was a big decision on who I was going to choose."

Murdoch selected the youngest of his dogs for one overriding reason:

"I chose Jack because he needed the culture," he said.

The event was billed as “Dogs Night Out” and it was a clever singular occasion that tied in with the new production, “Sylvia" by A.R. Gurney.

The play tells the tale of an empty-nester couple whose lives are forever changed by a labradoodle.

Katie Jackman is the theater’s director of external affairs.

"We, knowing how much Seattle loves dogs, felt like we had the perfect opportunity to bring art and canines together in one night."

Jackman actually pitched the idea once before when she worked in the Midwest and it was successful. So when the Rep chose to include "Sylvia" as part of its 2011-12 season, she got the thumbs up from the theater as well as the actors who generally prefer their audience to sit quietly in their seats -- and not in someone's lap and/or on the floor.

Last night's patrons included dogs as small as an iPad (a miniature chihuahua) and one as large as a miniature horse  ("Titan," a 135-pound leonberger). Many got dressed up for the night out, donning bow ties, sweaters and fancy bandanas. Some had also been bathed and several were taken out for long, long walks beforehand. The dogs also made sure their humans' pockets and purses carried plenty of treats.

No one was quite sure what would happen when the show started. But when the lights dimmed and actor Linda K. Morris who plays Sylvia bounded on stage, one dog, and then another and then finally a whole bunch of dogs started yapping.

The human audience, in turn, howled.

"Sylvia" plays at the Seattle Rep through Dec. 11.