Crab, a Dog

One of our most popular actors this 2009 season has been Toby, the Great Dane-German shepherd mix that plays the part of Crab in Summer Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. The role of Crab (the only named animal in Shakespeare) is not a demanding one: the only requirements are that he be large (“a dog as big as ten of yours” the text states), lethargic (“he is a stone, a very pebble stone”), leashed (“he that’s tied here, Crab my dog”), and that he appear twice with his master, Launce (Jeffrey Stegall). Anything beyond that is gravy. And Toby has certainly delivered the gravy. In all but one of the performances he has yawned at nearly the perfect moment—a great gaping, toothy yawn that is as much to say, “You, my dear master, bore me.” In one memorable recent performance he lay down and covered his eyes with his paws. At each new antic—or lack thereof—the audience has roared with delight, and Crab has continued his business unphased by the hubbub.

Our Crab was found by his “parents” six years ago in the Tucson, Arizona, desert. Jeremy and Holly Nelson and Jeremy’s sister stopped at a gas station and saw a box marked “Puppies” by the side of the road. Inside were five five-week-old pups. The Nelsons fell in love with Toby, and Jeremy’s sister selected another of the litter. The puppies badly needed baths and food and lots of love. Later that evening, the Nelsons went back to rescue the other puppies, afraid that coyotes would get the defenseless dogs after nightfall. However, the remaining three had already been rescued. For a while Toby’s legs grew faster than the rest of him, and he spent the next few months tripping over himself until he got used to his long limbs.

Toby as Crab

Toby as Crab

Toby certainly gets lots of attention with the cast. Even those who do not profess to be dog lovers love Toby. He is mild-mannered, well-behaved, and smarter than some human cast members. (No names, please!) Toby is always spot-on—usually anticipating his cues. The only thing he hasn’t figured out yet is why Proteus (Zach Franzen) seems to be chiding him in the dog-swapping scene. As he leaves the stage every night, Toby appears to be thinking, “What are you yelling at me for? I’m not the one who has dropped lines!” Come see Toby this Friday, July 17, or Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 PM in Performance Hall. Tickets are still available!

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