If you go
What: Popovich Comedy Pet Theater
Where: Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St.,York
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 17
Cost: $29, $33 or $37
More information: Visit www.mystrandcapitol.org or call 717-846-1111
It's tough enough to train a cat to use a litter box, but Gregory Popovich is not intimidated by the personality of these household pets. Instead, his cats can walk the top of a wall, jump from a burning building and jump through hoops during his famous Popovich Comedy Pet Theater performances.
Popovich will bring more than 30 trained animals, including dogs, cats, mini ponies and geese, to the Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center on April 17. Guests of all ages can see this popular Vegas attraction right here in Southcentral Pennsylvania, as Popovich uses physical comedy with human and animal talent.
Popovich's parents trained dogs for shows and the young Popovich found many of his first friends in these furry animals. When he moved from Europe to the United States as a young adult, Popovich primarily worked as a juggler. Hoping to create his own unique performance, Popovich returned to what he is most familiar with – rescued dogs and cats. In 1992, he was one of the first performers to bring so many trained house pets to the Las Vegas arena.
"I try to draw attention to the fact that all of these animals are rescued, because so many others need help," Popovich said. "Some people don't understand that animals have some of the same needs as people, too. They want to be loved and they have their own ways of communicating with us."
Popovich uses positive reinforcement to train his animals and he recognizes that you can't make an animal do something they don't want to.
Each of the animals on stage has one trick that they do – whether it's playing with a ball, walking on their back legs or pulling carts around. What the pets do on stage is a continuation of what they do at home with Popovich.
The show is made up of small sketches where each animal is an actor, he said. One sketch has Popovich playing a school teacher while the pets are students, sitting behind desks, answering math questions and turning in homework.
Many people are especially impressed with Popovich's ability to train house cats.
"They are very independent animals and people misunderstand how to deal with them," Popovich said. "Cats, like many other animals, use body language. If people were more aware of that they'd know how to read what their pets want and need."
Popovich always has a "back up" for each of the pets set to perform. If he can tell the animal is distracted by the audience or not in the mood to perform, he'll call another animal in to do the trick – often having two to three backups who are familiar with the routine.
Even house pets have bad days, he said.
Popovich said he owes a good bit of his success to the animals he works with each day. While Popovich has rescued each of them from life in a shelter or on the streets, they've given Popovich the chance to see the world and live his dreams.
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