BWW Backstage Pets: SARA TOLSON and her dogs Phoebe, Hazel, and Pepper
Welcome to BACKSTAGE PETS, where upstate SC theatre artists share photos of their most loyal fans - their pets.
Theatre Artist: Sara Tolson
Featured Role: Actor
Primary Venue: Centre Stage
Let's go backstage with Sara.
Tell us about your pets.
My husband, Creg, and I have 3 dogs that we rescued together. Phoebe was adopted from Greenville Animal Care 4 years ago on a whim. I decided I would go pet some pups on a random Saturday and fell in love with her. An adoption counselor told me that nobody had taken her out of the cage to play with her because she was a chihuahua and people thought she would bite them. She is the love of my life and has the best personality! She loves fetch more than anything in the world, and she thinks she weighs about 60 lbs.
Hazel is another chihuahua, but she kind of adopted us. We were living across the street from a family that had a young son, probably 8 years old or so. He came to our door one day with a little dog wrapped up in a towel and told my husband that she'd been hit by a car, that he'd been taking care of her for a while in his garage, but that his parents were making him turn her out. He noticed that we had a dog and asked if we could take her. How are you supposed to say no to that? She couldn't walk at the time and would basically cross her legs over one another and face plant. She had a wound on her chin where she kept hitting the pavement. Turns out she had some sort of infection that caused a neurological problem. She was on some medication for a while and now she's just a little wobbly! We have no idea how old she is, but the vet estimates anywhere between 6-10. She's turning more grey these days but she will still yell at you when her food bowl is empty or if she wants up on the couch. Very vocal old lady and we love her very much!
We bought a house in Marietta, SC about 2 years ago. One day during renovations I drove by a warehouse that always had a bunch of dogs running around. I saw a white dog with black spots lying on the side of the road and had red marks all over her. I pulled over thinking she may have been hit, but she would not let me get close to her. She had almost no hair on her body and had a large gash around her neck where she had been chained or roped to something. There were bugs all over her. She was absolutely terrified of people. Eventually someone came out of The Warehouse and asked me what I was doing with his dog. I told him that his dog needed medical attention and he said "well you can have her if you want but this one's a touch-me-not." He grabbed her and put her in my car, and we took her home. We named her Pepper. We have no idea what breed she is. For months she wouldn't come inside the house without being physically picked up and placed there. We couldn't pet her for a long time, but you could tell she really wanted to be held. She would run up and sniff our hands and whine and then run away. She's still the weirdest dog I've ever met but now she will literally not let you stop petting her. She will put her head under your hand or paw at you until you pet her. Or flop into your lap for belly rubs. She loves cuddles and play fighting with Phoebe. They are best friends. Creg and I still laugh at least once a week at "touch-me-not."
What are you doing to stay sane and engaged and creative during quarantine?
We are pretty much working outside every day when it's not raining! Creg has been working on the barn, and I've been doing more gardening. We've planted bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, onions, carrots, cauliflower, beets, and corn in our edible garden. I've also been doing lots of meal prep, cleaning, and organizing when I can. Sometimes I don't feel up to it so I just read or watch TV. It was really hard to stay motivated the first week I was laid off, but now I'm grateful for the time that we have to work around the house and spend time with the pups and each other.
How are your dogs helping you cope?
They have no anxiety about us being home all day, so that helps! They're just happy to be with us and they have no idea what's going on in the world. It's constant fetch or tug of war and they are loving it. Everyone gets cuddles and pets all day, and they love being outside with us. We have to keep them out of the garden because they don't understand why they can't help us dig.
What shows are you most looking forward to or being in after all this is over?
I have 2 shows lined up that I am so excited about! I'm not able to announce what they are yet, but one of them is a bucket list role and I could not be more thrilled that I get to play it!
There's a meme about dream roles out there. What is one of your dream roles?
I'd love to play Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD one day! Also Beatrice in MUCH ADO and Janice Ian in MEAN GIRLS.
What role do you wish you could cast your pets in?
Hazel as Ethel Beavers in PARKS AND REC. Pepper as Buster from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Or maybe KIMMY SCHMIDT. And Phoebe as Piper Chapman from ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. She thinks she's in charge but she is super not.
You can support the work of Sara and other theatre artists by making a donation to Centre Stage.