Written by: Pat Daily
In 1985, never having produced, I was encouraged to enroll in Fred Vogel’s CTI. I was in the early stages of producing Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class in an off-Broadway production starring Kathy Bates and Bill Pullman and… a live lamb. During my CTI session, I struck up a conversation with a fellow attendee, Robert Cole (CTI’s 2015 Robert Whitehead Award winner), and told him of my need for a lamb. He said he knew just the fellow and proceeded to put me in touch with another producer/gentleman farmer living in Westchester. The animal had to be fairly small because it was picked up and carried by a very lean Bill Pullman.
One thing led to another and before you can say Baaarbra, I had a sweet black lamb ready for her debut. Since the lamb is said to have maggots in the play, we named her Maggie. Boarding her, however, was a challenge. Initially, I found a horse stable on the Upper West Side willing to take her. I would walk her to and from the theater but being a sheep, she resisted the leash mightily, digging her hooves firmly into Times Square. She couldn’t be budged. I then jerry-rigged a wagon big enough to hold her, attached it to my bike and attempted to pull her. Uh, that REALLY didn’t work. She butted the wagon, I fell off my bike and it was back to “Taxi!” Most drivers would step on the gas when they realized what I was toting.
But eventually, I would find a willing driver and I’d shove Maggie into the cab – with her bleating and raisinet-ing the back seat. I had tried extra-large diapers to keep the raisinets contained but they proved useless. (Where was PETA then?) The drivers would ask what kind of dog and I would answer (sheepishly) “a sheep dog” but the smell of a barnyard animal is very distinctive and by the time the drivers realized it was NOT a dog, I was at the theater or the stable.
This went on for a month or so until the stable gave her/me notice. The bleating was distracting to the horses; I’d have to find another home for Maggie. A few blocks away there was a firehouse. Firemen like pets! They’ll love Maggie. It wasn’t love at first sight but when I offered to cook spaghetti meals for the firemen, they obliged and took her in. Meanwhile Maggie was growing into a sheep and getting too heavy for Bill to carry. We had to trade her in for another lamb. The next lamb we named Meryl Sheep. She was an excellent actress but constantly upstaged the others by bleating, butting her head, and raisinet-ing the stage. She got lots of laughs (in a non-comedy) and seemed very happy in the spotlight. Meryl Sheep outgrew the role too and it was on to the next. Meanwhile, the firehouse was getting sick of the sheep smell and our production was moving from the Promenade on the Upper West Side to 890 Broadway, a new theater that had just opened downtown. I bit the budget’s bullet and hired an animal wrangler (not Bill Berloni – I didn’t know of him then) to room and board any new additions that came along to get us to the end of our run.
CTI not only taught me a lot about producing, it taught me everything a city slicker would need to know about shepherding.