Dogs Are Better Than People, written and performed by Sarah Hunter, and developed and directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson, is an eccentric romp through drinking, bad men, and fabulous dogs who each tell Sarah’s story. But why, you may ask, does Sarah Hunter truly believe that Dogs are better than people? Could it be the canines in her life might be better at telling the truth about life’s trials and tribulations, as well as the many joys, they have experienced with her in life?
In tribute to all her knowledgeable dogs over the years, the writer/performer decided to let them tell her story. Lilly the Airedale. along with the Chiweenie duo Koa and Louis the Fourteenth, and several others spill all about her humorous journey - beginning with her divorce in Chicago, frustration, bad relationships, to revelation and celebration in finding a "working relationship" in sobriety with Matthew, the man who appreciates both her and her dogs.
Intrigued by a play’s title and a devoted dog Mom myself, I decided to speak with its writer/performer Sarah Hunter to find out more about her and the play’s creation. To my surprise, I found out Ms. Hunter is also a retired English teacher (as I am), although she taught for many more years than I did. I was also interested to find out about her travels with groups of adolescents to Europe, something I always thought I would have loved to do, had I had the patience for it.
And to top everything off, turns out she also believes that astrology provides insights into understanding other people, especially students and learning to get along with men. And since I used my understanding of astrological birth charts in similar ways, which worked every time, I was curious about whether or not the dogs offer any insights about it in the play.
Shari Barrett (Shari): Hi Sarah. I know we have a lot to talk about given that Dogs Are Better Than People is an eccentric romp through drinking, bad men, and fabulous dogs. So let’s start with the fabulous dogs who tell your story. What can you tell me about the ones you have shared your life with and is there one in particular that inspired you to write the play?
Sarah Hunter (Sarah): Thanks, Shari, for your questions and the chance to let me rhapsodize about dogs, my first loves. Growing up, I had my springer spaniel, Toby, to talk to when things got tough with my family. He always gave me a sloppy kiss and comforted me whenever I needed it. He inspired me to write this piece, along with all the other dogs who have loved me and whom I have adored. So I decided the best way to give them credit for being a part of my life was to BECOME them and let them speak.
Shari: I often think my dog rescued me. Do you believe the unconditional love and emotional support you get from a devoted dog is one of the best presents you can give yourself in life?
Sarah: Oh, yes. I think the presence of a dog, with its head on my knee or in my lap is therapy. It’s hard to remain glum or irritated for long when there’s an enthusiastic, loving little pair of eyes begging for a piece of chicken or wagging her tail for a walk. I can’t imagine living without two of them. They rescued me when I was drunk, when I became sober, and when I went through one bad relationship after another. Always there...always nonjudgmental, always pure love.
Shari: Tell me about your partnership with well-known solo show director Jessica Lynn Johnson. Did you start developing Dogs Are Better Than People as a student in her ongoing free weekly solo theatre class?
Sarah: Actually, no, I sought Jessica out after seeing my friend, and fellow Solo Artist, Lisa Verlo, perform an excerpt of her newest one woman show in Jessica’s Soaring Solo Salon. From there, I started to work with Jessica one-on-one to create my show. Jessica is humorous, talented, creative and full of sound advice and encouragement. And the best part is that Jessica has an adorable “Chug” named Ruby Peanut who makes frequent appearances during our coaching sessions.
Shari: Anything you want to share about the “drinking and bad men” who populate the play?
Sarah: Well, the scene that I put in the play featuring a hideous “Silver Singles date” really happened. Complete with the sweaty armpit-stained t-shirt and the bad attitude. I found my online dating experiences absurd and depressing, so I put one of them in the show... for a bit of humor.
Shari: Tell me a bit more about Matthew, the man who finally appreciates both you and your dogs. Did you meet while walking your dogs? What made you realize he was different than the other men you had dated?
Sarah: Matthew, whose real name is Andres, is a fellow sober man who loves my dogs and me. He has a sense of humor and appreciation of music and the Arts. We’ve been together for a decade.
Shari: That in itself is pretty special! Do you talk about your years as an English teacher in the play as seen through the eyes of your dogs? No doubt teachers now are on Zoom with their pets often clamoring for attention during online classes!
Sarah: At one point in my show, I have Sarah (me, the main character) grading essays on the couch and swearing out loud. Lilly, the Airedale, makes a comment about what Sarah thinks of the essays and then says she’s grateful she’s a dog instead of an English student.
Shari: I know you led several tours of Europe with students. Was there a favorite place you especially loved sharing with them?
Sarah: I’m in love with Paris, and the kids loved it too -- the nighttime boat ride down the Seine, the trip to the chocolate factory, the ice cream parlors, the Louvre, the cafes, everything. even going to Versailles, a place I find to be magic. They did too. I did my best to wear them out so they wouldn’t complain about the deeply mediocre food catered by the tour company. We all managed to come home a little porkier than when we started out!
Shari: I have been to Paris many times and I absolutely adore the people and places, especially all the museums! It also seems we both have a strong interest in astrology. Have you used its techniques to better understand your dogs – and men?
Sarah: Men, yes, dogs no. I think dogs are God’s gifts to us, but men… well, I’ve made mistakes astrologically there. I’m a Sagittarius and my human partner is a Libra, so we are compatible. All dogs have gotten along great with me. Lilly was a Gemini, and my two chiweenies are both little Tauruses. Stubborn, but oh so loving!
Shari: Is there anything else you would like viewers to know about yourself and/or Dogs Are Better Than People?
Sarah: I hope they enjoy my whacky sensibilities and appreciation of DOGS, especially since God spelled backwards is DOG.
Shari: Thanks so much for speaking with me about the show! I can’t wait to be in the audience!
The eccentric collection of talking dogs presented by Sarah Hunter in Dogs Are Better Than People takes place as part of the Whitefire Theatre Solofest 2021 Livestream on Saturday, March 13th at 7pm PST/10 pm EST. Tickets are $15.99, available at https://www.whitefiretheatre.com with a portion of the show's proceeds being donated to Pasadena Humane, Hand In Paw Rescue, and Soi Dog Foundation. So settle in to enjoy the show with your own four-legged furry friends around your home screen!
Background on Sarah Hunter and Jessica Lynn Johnson:
Sarah Hunter is the other half of Two Heads are Better Productions. She began creating characters and dramas in her neighborhood backyard at age eight back in West Lafayette, Indiana. From graduate school to her time in Los Angeles, Sarah remains a dedicated student of classical and modern theater. She has dubbed Japanese cartoons, done voice-over work, had her original plays produced in Los Angeles and Pasadena as well as being a published short story writer. She continues acting, creating, writing and dreaming.
The most important thing for Sarah is the continuous re-inventing of herself each time she writes another play or TV episode. Working with Sandra Cruze on TWO HEADS ARE BETTER PRODUCTIONS has allowed Sarah to continue writing episodes and acting, and working on her one-woman solo shows which she has presented at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA as well as the Whitefire Theatre.
Jessica Lynn Johnson is a published playwright, recipient of BEST NATIONAL SOLO ARTIST AWARD, Board member of the LA Women's Theatre Festival and Founder & CEO of Soaring Solo Theatre Company LLC. For years, Jessica has taught an ongoing free weekly solo theatre class, as well as paid private coaching sessions to guide solo artists in the development of their one person plays. For over a decade she has “edu-tained” international audiences touring her own 25-character one person shows. Recently, Jessica was thrilled to direct 5 solo artists in the LA Women's Theatre Festival, 17 solo shows in Whitefire Theatre's Solo Fest 2017, and 15 solo shows in the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2017. Over the years, Jessica's solo shows haven taken home TOP OF FRINGE, ENCORE PRODUCER AWARDS, & several other accolades! For more info on her various projects, visit www.JessicaLynnJohnson.com