Johnny Peers and 16 of his furry friends have traveled across the country, performing and wagging their tails for thousands and thousands of people. This weekend, they'll return to Smyrna for a matinee performance at the Smyrna Opera House.
There's old acting advice that says to never take the stage with children or animals. Apparently, no one ever told Johnny Peers. Since the late 1970's—following his graduation from Ringling Clown College—he has been traveling from coast to coast (an occasionally across continents—four, if anybody is counting) performing with nearly two dozen canine companions with a routine aptly named, "Muttville Comix."
This Saturday afternoon, the show (but not the barking) will stop once again in Smyrna at the Smyrna Opera House.
What can audiences expect? First, they can expect more than two dozen clever pups. These dogs will climb ladders, jump through hoops, walk tightropes and occasionally knock ol' Johnny down. It's all in good fun, though. Peers is typically the straight man, like Costello's Abbott or Mister Ed's Wilber. And, as if wagging tails and furry faces aren't heartwarming enough, there's the underlying message of the show: There's value and happiness in every being. Each dog is a rescue, found and adopted by Peers himself who, then, coaxed and patiently trained them all.
Peers was introduced to his life's passion thanks to his dad's job running a concession stand for the Ringling Circus. Like a lot of sons, Peers found himself working with his father. But, he was always studying the clowns. It didn't take long before Peers knew he wanted his own "honking nose." He joined Ringling Clown College, graduating in 1970. A few years later, he created his own Charlie Chaplin-esque character and rescued his first pup, a beagle mix named Freckles, from the Humane Society. That was 1972. Fast-forward 41 years later and Peers now has 16 rescued dogs in his act.
There have been many more rescues, though. The others are either retired or in training. Most of the performers have come from shelters or pounds; Although, occasionally, fans give him dogs as well. It can take anywhere from six months to a year before a dog is show-ready if, in fact, a dog shows interest in performing. Peers doesn't force the "family business on them," acknowledging that each dog has its own character and attributes.
This weekend's show will begin at 2 p.m., Saturday afternoon in the second floor auditorium, with the doors opening 45 minutes prior to the start of the performance. Tickets are $10 each. Family four-packs will also be available for $35. All seats are general admission.
For more information, see the fact box on this page.