Pup stars Violet and Blue backstage with trainer Lydia DesRoche at Of Mice and Men on Broadway (Amy Nicole Swift 2014)
Of Mice and Men is in its closing week after a successful run starring the high-powered talents of Chris O’Dowd, James Franco, Jim Norton, and Leighton Meester, but the four-legged players are who truly stole our hearts. This was the Broadway premier of senior rescue pits Violet and Blue, but with their stage presence and star power you’d never guess they weren’t longtime vets of the theatre or the limelight.
Violet and Blue’s success can of course be attributed to their dedicated trainer, Lydia DesRoche, owner of Sit Stay Dog Training in New York City, who has coached them on and off the stage throughout the show’s run. Although this is DesRoche’s first Broadway show, she has been training dogs for over 14 years, and counts many celebrities and A-list New Yorkers on her client roster. DesRoche’s reputation is what caught the attention of company manager Bobby Driggers, who found her through the dog training website Do More With Your Dog.
DesRoche’s long-time rescue pet, Blue, who is named for his one striking Blue eye, was originally cast in the role of Candy’s dog because he was a perfect fit for the dog Steinbeck described in his classic novel. DesRoche then sought out a client’s dog, Violet, to play his understudy.
“Every time Violet looked at me she reminded me of Blue. There was this look in her eyes that Blue always had – that same soulful stare that would get people to bring their cheeseburgers outside of restaurants and offer them to him,” said DesRoche. “So we brought her in as the understudy then she took his job! She outshined him!”
Violet arriving to the Longacre Theatre in her Canine Taxi, Blue and trainer Lydia her entourage (Amy Nicole Swift 2014)
Violet and Blue, both aged dogs with a storied past, are unlikely stars of the stage. Violet is somewhere between 13 and 15, and Blue will be 16 in August. Violet was rescued 3 years ago by one of DesRoche’s clients so little is known of her background, but DesRoche rescued Blue from a junkyard 15 years ago where he had been living amongst feral cats.
Working long hours backstage with senior dogs on Broadway is grueling for both DesRoche and the dogs, so she reached out to New York Walk and Train to provide assistants for the shows. “New York Walk and Train is amazing. They’ve been incredible. I don’t know what I could have done without them.”
Violet in her Crypton Bed of Roses Bolster Bed on opening night (Lydia DesRoche 2014)
She also was faced with the challenge of creating a comfortable greenroom for the dogs on the hard basement floor, which was no small task. “I was looking for something that would be comfortable for them, where they could really spread out. I wanted something with a bolster in case they wanted to lean. They’re both senior dogs so I wanted to get something that could handle any messes that happened.”
DesRoche chose Crypton’s Bed of Roses Bolster Bed in black and blue. “It’s a really great pattern. I get tons of compliments on the bed. Everyone loves them. The assistants curl up on the beds with them… They’re big enough for a person!”
Crypton was granted access behind the scenes to check out how the beds are holding up under such intense wear. Violet receives a full-body makeup treatment every show, so inevitably the excess has been ground into the bed over time. But makeup is no match for Crypton. “They wash up really easy,” said DesRoche. The covers come off the bed and can be put through the wash, like new every time.
The dogs also take breaks outside to find respite from the frenzy of the show. “We have a Travel Bed of Roses that we use when I take them to the park,” said DesRoche. “We love it. Not only is it padded, but it also cleans up really well. I use it anytime, like if we’re going to sit in the alley or go backstage. It’s really nice to take it around with me, and I think it’ll be really great to have once the show is over.”
Violet and Blue taking a snuggly break between shows on their soft Crypton Travel Bed of Roses (Lydia DesRoche 2014)
The durability of Crypton has also caught the attention of stage manager Jane Grey, who sometimes brings her dog to the show. “I am sold on this fabric line and am so glad to have gotten to touch it and feel the different qualities,” said Grey. “This fabric should be pitched to Broadway designers and prop people because shows give furniture and soft goods a real beating.”
Though the show is coming to a close this week, DesRoche is hoping that her experience with Of Mice and Men will lead to other opportunities on Broadway. When asked what her favorite memory was from the show she recalls the many times watching Violet waiting backstage for her cue with Jim Norton, who plays her owner, Candy. “She marches, she looks up at him, she smacks her lips, she noses his hand – she’s like, ‘C’mon let’s do this!’”
Of Mice and Men is playing through July 27, 2014 at the Long acre Theatre in New York. Tickets are still available before Violet and Blue take their final bow with the cast.
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