• Written and performed by Holly Hughes; directed by Dan Hurlin [excerpt from the full performance]. The Dog and Pony Show (Bring Your Own Pony) is included in the anthology, Animal Acts: Performing Species Now, edited by Una Chaudhuri and Holly Hughes and published by University of Michigan Press. Performances staged at the University of Michigan's Duderstadt Media Center, March 21-23, 2013.

Transcript

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    [APPLAUSE]
    >> You know the word pet.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> I don't know,

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    it doesn't really work anymore, right?

    4
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    It doesn't really describe
    the relationship we

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    have with the animals that we live with.

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    It's like the rusty old dog crate.

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    And the cage door won't close and

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    the dog pushes against the door, noses out and
    she asks for a new name.

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    Who are we to each other anymore?

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    What should we call it?

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    I mean I think the PC term is “guardian.”

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    I hate that word “guardian.”

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    I mean, to me it's like the word “partner.”

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    I mean, it's corporate.

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    It reeks of manilla envelopes.

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    I mean, guardian?

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    I'm the owner.

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    I whip out the check book at the vet
    supply store, the pet supply store.

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    Guardian?

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    I mean, it's not like she's gonna turn 21
    and be able to pay for this shit herself.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> She's not gonna turn 21.

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    I look at the leash in my hand and
    it's a piece of leather,

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    it's a leash, but
    it feels like something else.

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    What?

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    Esther, my partner of 18 years,
    decides we should get a new couch.

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    She really wants to get a sectional.

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    Part of me dies.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> But,

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    I want to be able to get on
    the couch with all nine animals.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> It's kind of like a cushioned boat.

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    We drop anchor in front of Rachel Maddow.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> I may be the only lesbian in America

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    that doesn't know what
    Rachel Maddow looks like,

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    because there's a 50 pound poodle
    who has decided he is a lap dog.

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    Ready, my Norfolk terrier,
    is perched on the back of the couch.

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    She's kinda like a whiskered parrot.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> We're pirates together.

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    And Lilo, her sister, is wedged
    between my thigh and the armrest, and

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    she's giving me this little look that
    says, I'd really, really like to crawl up

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    inside your hoodie so
    my face comes out the same hole as yours.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> But the cat got there first.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> You know,

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    I'd really like to go around
    all the time like this.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> To classes, faculty meetings.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> The gym.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> With a cat down the front of my shirt.

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    My nose is healing very nicely, thank you.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> There was an altercation in bed last

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    week about who got to sleep closest to the
    head, and my nose kind of got in the way.

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    Makeup just makes it worse, so

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    I find myself cracking
    Charlie Manson jokes in class.

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    And I consider the Norfolk terrier
    breed standard.

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    And I decide that it applies to
    owners as well as their dogs.

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    And the breed standard says,
    honorable scars from fair wear and

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    tear shall not count against, unquote
    >> [LAUGH].

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    >> Esther is also carpeted with poodles and
    a little dollop of terrier.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> We are close but not actually touching.

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    Presto her black standard poodle is
    lying between us touching us both.

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    Occasionally Presto growls at one
    of the other dogs or even at us,

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    suggesting perhaps that it's his couch and
    maybe we want to sit on the floor.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Esther doesn't buy this.

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    She collars him and

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    she puts him into one of the five
    dog crates lining our living room.

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    Our name for this time is family time.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> But it's just our word for it.

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    I mean Esther tells me to be careful about
    what I say to other people about the dogs,

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    to especially watch out for
    the pet people.

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    >> [LAUGH].

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    >> I mean,
    pet people are people who have pets, but

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    are always reminding you, he's just a dog.

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    He's just a cat.

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    I am not a pet person.

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    Okay?

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    I am a dog person.

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    And gradually the people without any
    animals have faded away entirely

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    from my life.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Be

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    careful who you talk to about the dogs,
    is good advice.

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    But I'm a careless person.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Right?

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    You know this, so I cannot
    resist telling this very beloved former

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    student that I'm really excited because
    I have a new canine exchange student

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    who's coming to live with me next week.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> And she's like, Holly,

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    >> [LAUGH]

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    >> I don't think you can have any more

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    animals.

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    Your life is out of control.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> And

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    she just finished house sitting for
    me, so.

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    But it's actually not a recent phenomena.

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    I mean, I look at my life, and

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    it's a composition only in the most
    John Cage sense of the word.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> The whole thing is determined by

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    chance and lacking any kind of music.

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    But follow up sounds and silences, so
    I just decide I'm gonna call music.

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    Just like we decide we're
    gonna call this family time.

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    Now with or without the animals,
    we don't count as a family.

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    But I think that's fine, because
    the word family makes me very nervous.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> But for

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    the moment, we are held together
    by the black crescent of a poodle.

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    Now when I was growing up in the state,
    a little bit farther north in the 60s and

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    the 70s,
    there were big agricultural farms around.

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    But if you wanted to see what looked like
    an old-fashioned farm, even in that time,

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    with animals and that sort of stuff,
    you went to someplace they called a farm.

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    It was a petting zoo.

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    And it was this sad
    museum of the old-timey.

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    It was like a place where
    they made candles and shit.

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    And the whole time you're there,

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    you're thinking how terrible
    it is to live on a farm.

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    And what if the bus leaves without you?

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    And leaves you on the farm?

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    I asked my parents for a horse.

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    Anybody else ask their parents for
    a horse?

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    And they gave me a piano.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Which my mother pointed out was

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    a musical instrument that
    most resembled a horse.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> A piano

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    is a nice thing to give to a child.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> If you're not a family of the tone-deaf

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    and deaf, deaf type, as we were.

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    We played music once a year.

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    That was the only time it was on.

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    It was a record from the gas station,
    Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Christmas songs.

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    And then it was done.

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    We got that music thing out of our system.

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    So somehow I was encouraged by this, and
    I decided the next year to ask for a pony.

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    And I made it very clear,
    I did not need a big pony.

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    I need the smallest pony possible.

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    A pony I plan to keep under the bed.

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    Then, my mother sent us to
    Christian leadership camp.

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    Something that is nothing like a pony.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> There is no resemblance between

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    Christian leadership camp and ponyhood.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> They even sent my poor sister,

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    I figured out,
    don't ever ask them for anything.

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    You know, when I was a kid,
    you don't really know.

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    I thought, why can't I have a pony?

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    Why can't I have a horse?

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    I mean, we seemed to have enough money.

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    But we were just middle class and
    I'll tell you, a pony is a lot.

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    A horse is a lot more than a piano.

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    A horse is a hell of a lot
    more demanding than Jesus.

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    >> [LAUGH]

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    >> I'll tell you what was really unusual

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    and special when I was growing up.

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    Oh my God, it was so rare,
    such a rare treat, to see a deer.

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    >> [LAUGH]
    >> Oh my God.

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    You saved up for it on a warm July night.

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    And all of us crowded in the Buick,
    with a quiet that was not typical.

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    It was not our usual Hughes quiet, with
    that faint odor of disappointment, no.

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    This was a Sunday best kind of quiet.

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    One we intended to use at church, but
    my family spent all their prayers on deer.

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    When we spotted one we’d look for
    the others.

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    Because even if you don't see them,
    deer are never alone.

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    I never saw a bear.

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    I knew people who knew people who
    saw bears, but I never saw a bear.

The Dog and Pony Show (Bring Your Own Pony) [excerpt]

From Animal Acts: Performing Species Today by Una Chaudhuri and Holly Hughes, Editors

Info

Creator(s)
Contributor(s)
Subjects
  • Theatre and Performance
  • Cultural Studies
  • Literary Studies
Date
  • March 22, 2013
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