House pets can be loyal companions, guardians and, at times, natural comedians. Just check social media, YouTube or “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and you’ll find a slew of furry critter antics.
Gregory Popovich grew up in the circus in his native Russia and discovered animals don’t have to be wild like bears, lions and elephants to bring amazement and joy to audiences.
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So he rounded up more than 30 dogs, cats, parrots and his star mini horse, Diamond, and six human jugglers and performers to form Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. The Clark State Performing Arts Center will host the talented animals at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31.
The show is presented by the Clark State Performing Arts Center and is appropriate for all ages.
A member of several generations of circus performers and a former juggler with the Moscow State Circus, Popovich was surprised when he visited a friend in the U.S. to discover pet shelters, which he never saw in Russia.
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To build his pet theater, which he has presented in Las Vegas for several years, toured internationally and competed on “America’s Got Talent,” he only uses pets adopted from shelters in his cast.
While stories of mistreatment of circus animals have made news in recent years and even prompted some large shows to shut down, Popovich makes it clear he takes care of his performers, not subjecting them to hard or risky tricks.
“For me as a pet lover, I want to only have homeless pets,” Popovich said in his distinctive Russian accent. “This is not a circus show and why I call it a theater; I’d rather build stories and use the pets’ personalities.”
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The audience can get a taste of these personalities when his canine cast creates an animal railroad with a conductor and passengers and even a stowaway who may try to sneak on without a ticket.
While dogs aren’t foreign to stage acts, cats are quite unusual, but not for Popovich. Felines will get the attention their lion cousins do with their own feats, while Diamond will do tricks. Popovich declines to give many details on what they’ll do.
“My show is much better seen in life,” he said. “You will see my pets healthy, pets happy and acting and a happy audience.”
Popovich admits it can be hard to go to shelters because of the empathy he feels for homeless pets and he’d have trouble transporting them all back to his home. But he promotes the importance of adopting them and if one person in his audience would be inspired to adopt, it’s worth it.
Also in the show are six Russian performers who will juggle and do other tricks. Popovich works to present memorable feats for all members of the family, adults and kids.
Following the show, he’ll do a meet and greet where attendees can talk with him and see some of the talented pet performers. He said it’s one of his favorite parts of the evening.
HOW TO GO
What: Popovich Comedy Pet Theater
Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield
When: Friday, Jan. 31, 8 p.m.
More info: 937-328-3874 or pac.clarkstate.edu
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