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Published: Friday, 10/10/2003

`Comedy and Pet Theater' is turning strays into stars

From animal shelters to show biz - it's a Hollywoodlike story line come true in the Comedy and Pet Theater production that makes a stop in Toledo this weekend.

“All of my pets are strays that have been saved from animal shelters,” creator-director Gregory Popovich says in promotional material for the show, which will be presented at 2 and 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Valentine Theatre.

“It's a very unusual show,” Popovich says in a telephone interview from Chicago.

Comedy and Pet Theater features eight dogs and 12 housecats, plus Russian clowns, Popovich himself - award-winning juggler, clown, and fourth-generation Russian circus performer - and his 12-year-old daughter, Anastasia. Popovich's wife, Izolda, works behind the scenes.

His pets don't simply perform circuslike tricks, explains Popovich, who trained at the Moscow Circus School and toured with the Moscow Circus before embarking on a solo career. The native of Russia moved to the United States 10 years ago and makes his home in Las Vegas.

“We do some stories and situations” using the dogs and cats as actors, he says. In “the dog classroom” routine, for example, the animals are the students - sitting at desks, answering math questions by barking, and showing their knowledge of geography by pointing to a globe.

He says he trains his animals by building stories around their personalities. “We don't go against the animal's nature,” Popovich adds. Thus a slow-moving, laid-back dog might be cast as a lazy student.

In addition to the animal antics, the show will include juggling, balancing, comedy routines by the Russian clowns, and a slack-wire act.

“This show is not just for kids,” Popovich says. “It's also good for adults. It's for the whole family.”

“Comedy and Pet Theater” by Gregory Popovich will be presented at 2 and 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Valentine Theatre, 400 North Superior St. Tickets are $12 and $16 for adults and $7 and $11 for children age 16 and under. Information: 419-242-2787.

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