The famous Peanut gang has grown up and will experience the world of high school in All Campus Theatre's first production this fall.
"Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead," directed by Matthew Ralph, will take place at the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre this weekend.
"I believe the play is primarily a discussion of self, the ways in which we protect ourselves by inventing personas in order to fit in or cover up our true nature, and the damage which can come of this," said Leo LaCamera, senior majoring in theatre.
The Peanuts comic strip, written and illustrated by Charles Schulz, has influenced children, adults and pop culture alike. Mention of the Peanuts gang resurfaces countless memories: "The Great Pumpkin" Halloween special, Charlie Brown's ceaseless attempts to kick a football, Lucy draped over Beethoven's piano and a little Christmas tree weighted down by a single ornament.
Although the Peanuts are often associated with childhood, this stage version is for adults. Characters of the Peanuts gang are now in high school, and life is increasingly complicated. "Dog Sees God" handles mature subjects including drug use, questions of identity and violence.
"How I describe it to my friends is that it is a satire of a typical young adult film," Brock Ward, junior in college scholars, said. "You've got your stereotypes, you've got your dirty humor and you've got your venomous youths.
"Don't come in expecting Hamlet, come in expecting a play written by the man who wrote the script for 'Easy A.'"
CB, the high school Charlie Brown, opens the play with big questions sparked by his dog's death, such as whether there is an afterlife. The play follows the well-known characters' developing relationships and realistic struggles. Ward, who plays Beethoven (Schroeder), believes that the personality developments made his character relatable.
"I think every artsy kid can identify with Beethoven," Ward said. "It's kind of our rite of passage that at some point in our lives we have had our head shoved in a locker. The thing about Beethoven is that he is not one adjective, just like all of us.
"He might be a homosexual, but he is also a pianist, a thinker, a realist, an artist, a loner, a fighter, an innocent, a smart aleck, a nostalgic, a friend and so many more. It is impossible to use one word to describe a human being."
Van, originally Linus, is played by LaCamera. He says he was also able to connect to his character, who was always the philosophical one in the original Peanuts.
"My character often plays the clown, taking matters seriously which aren't and vice versa," LaCamera said. "This is a sort of defense mechanism whereby he can avoid serious conversations, making his own opinions seem trivial. I have taken this road many times and it is one of the many ways in which I identify with Van."
Ward said that viewers need to redefine what they think about the Peanuts gang when they see "Dog Sees God."
"My favorite thing about 'Dog Sees God' is how unapologetic it is," Ward said. "Be warned, it is extremely vulgar, but there is a beauty in the roughness."
"Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" will be performed at the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre at 8 p.m. on Aug. 29-31 and on Sept. 1 at 2:30 p.m. Student tickets are $5, and non-student tickets are $8. Tickets are available at the door.