City Cast

'Dog Explosion' Playwright Turns Life Into Theater

Scott Dickensheets
Scott Dickensheets
Posted on September 21
Picture of a dog in an explosion.

Not only did playwright Sean Clark direct, produce, and build the sets for “Dog Explosion,” he enlisted his dog for this promo image. (Winchester Dondero Cultural Center)

No actual dogs are exploded in the staging of “Dog Explosion” — that has already happened, moments before the play opens on the McCall family in rural Missouri: three siblings and a terminally ill mother who’s just died. While the play has its share of laughs, says Las Vegas playwright Sean Clark, who directs this production, it doesn’t have the bleakly irreverent tenor of a black comedy. It does have lots of donuts and beer. A couple of questions for Clark:

Did I read that this play dates back to 2013?

“It’s a lot older than that. I kind of had it in a drawer. I was working (as a screenwriter) in Hollywood, and this stage play got me more work than any screenplay I’d written. They read this play and hired me for ‘Northern Exposure.’ As the great Ray Wylie Hubbard said, if you write something you think is good, be prepared to live with it for 40 years.”

How did you come to write this particular story?

“There’s a lot of incidents right out of my own life. My main character was a woman,and her frustrations mirrored my frustrations at the time: student debt, not knowing what your future was, feeling a little trapped. And then I was at a bar one night, and this total stranger tells this story of a guy who decided to kill his dog with some dynamite because it had cancer. All of a sudden I went, ‘That’s the catalyst I need to really make this play pop.’”

Did you have to update this production at all?

“It’s set in 1984, and I thought, ‘It’s going to be a period piece.’ That way you don’t have to explain why there are no cell phones. But as I watched it unfold, oddly enough, on the metaphoric levels, it’s more topical now than ever. Part of the clash is between somebody who is extremely cynical and sarcastic and burned out, and her sister, who is the opposite of those things because she’s found strength and happiness in her religion. And you have a guy in the middle who’s trying to do the right thing but finds the world around him a little judgmental if he happens to blow up a house or something. (Laughs.) A lot of it’s about the divides — that the country is in, between siblings. And those divides seem sharper now than in 1984.”

“Dog Explosion” can be seen tonight through Saturday at Winchester Dondero Cultural Center ($15).

  • Barely related: While they're not exploding dogs, do Vegas dog owners go too far when it comes to other areas of public life? [City Cast Las Vegas 🎧]
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