Isabelle Schmidt

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Earlier this month, the Winthrop University theater department preformed “Dog sees God,” which follows the life of an adolescent Charlie Brown after the death of his dog Snoopy.

Bert V. Royal, who began his career as a casting director before becoming a writer, wrote the play in 2004.

The play reintroduces the Peanuts characters in modern time and explores some serious themes such as substance abuse, eating disorders, sexual identity, suicide, peer pressure and bullying.

“The show is about the Peanuts characters, Charlie Brown and his gang, in their teenage years and what happens to them when they go to high school,” said Hailee Beltzhoover, a junior theater performance major who plays Sally Brown.

“It kind of follows (Charlie Brown) after Snoopy passes away and his quest to reconcile that, as well as explore all of the relationships that they have set in the cartoon and now grown up.”

This is the second time the play has been staged on campus, after it was first performed in 2009.

“I think the show was chosen because of the director Steven Gundershine. It’s a story that really resonates with him and I think that it was a story that he felt the need to tell and I think that is what made the show so great, is his need to tell that,” said Beltzhoover.

Cast members say the difficult topics discussed in the show are presented in a way that sheds a light on each in a thought-provoking way.

“It talks about a lot of current problems, there’s a lot on homophobia, sexuality, bullying; there’s drugs and alcohol. It’s a group of teenagers trying to make it through life, while figuring out who they are and I definitely think that still applies to us here in college,” said Kaitlyn Dillard, a junior musical theater major who plays the role of Marcy.

“I’m 21, but I still struggle with almost every single thing that is talked about in ‘Dog sees God,’ so I do think it’s going to get a reaction out of people afterwards.”

Kyla Smith, a sophomore dance education major who attended the show, said the performance moved her.

“I laughed a lot and then some parts I was kind of uncomfortable with, because it did have a lot of sexual vulgarity and language…but at the end, I did have chills because it was trying to send a pretty powerful message,” said Smith.

Beltzhoover said she hopes members of the audience will be able to relate to the characters to some degree.

“I actually really, really relate to Sally Brown a lot more than I ever thought I would. She is kind of this nerdy theater loner kid who is in the shadows of her older brother and just trying to fit in with the cool kids and that is really a way that I felt in high school,” she said. “I definitely feel like I am pulling from personal experiences when I’m on stage.”

One memorable line from the show is when Van tells Charlie Brown: “Us defines us. Not things, people or pets.”