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Gardendale’s ‘Tony the Theatre Dog’ Brings Stage To Life For Kids

Post from Dennis Washington from Alabama NewsCenter

Glen Kinnaird knew he wanted to launch his new book in Gardendale.

“When I first thought of doing a book signing and a launch, I wanted to launch here because it’s my hometown.”

Kinnaird did just that Thursday night at the Gardendale Public Library where he signed copies of his new book, ‘Tony the Theatre Dog, Puttin’ on a Show.’ The book is based on Kinnaird’s dog, Tony, a Maltese – Shih Tzu mix breed. Tony takes readers through an imaginary world behind the curtain, helping the characters put differences aside and work together to create a hit show. Readers explore how theater is made through Tony’s eyes.

“The great thing about the book is it takes kids to areas behind the stage that they don’t normally see in smaller age groups,” Kinnaird said. “It teaches them a lot about careers and things that might happen and be available to them later in life.”

Kinnard’s inspiration for the book happened in 2016 when he returned home to Gardendale to assist the Gardendale Arts Council with its theatre production of Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland Jr.‘ He brought his dog with him, who had already been given the name ‘Tony the Theatre Dog’ a few years earlier by a friend during work on a national tour of a Broadway show.

“Working with the kids, they really got involved with putting on Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland Jr.’ and we did everything with them,” Kinnaird said. “We worked on what the set needed to look like, and what the costumes needed to look like — I directed them but they did the show a lot on their own with a few parents and adults putting everything together. That really showed me that they were interested in how everything works and let me do it.”

One of the people involved in the production was Olivia Porrill. Kinnaird quickly realized she had the talent to bring his book idea to life.

“I was blown away by her level of talent, her professionalism,” said Kinnaird. “I’m just so proud of her.”

Porrill, a graduate of the Alabama School of Fine Arts, drew the black and white drawings her junior year and then colorized them her senior year. Porrill said seeing her work in print is surreal.

“At first it seemed daunting and now, to look back and see how far the project has come, it’s amazing.” said Porrill. “Also to see my art skills at the beginning compared to now have improved a lot, and just to see that progression as I’m flipping through the pages is very interesting as well.”

Both Kinnaird and Porrill hope the book encourages kids of all ages to support the arts.

“The biggest thing I want them to take away is an appreciation for the arts and the impact it has — not only for economically, regionally and on Broadway in New York, but aside from that, theater changes us,” Kinnaird said. “It tells us stories that enrich our lives in many ways and I think they’re going to be touched by the story that Tony conveys with them.”

“I believe that’s so important,” Porrill adds. “It needs to be talked about more and reached to a younger audience which I think the book does very well.”

And what’s next for Tony?

“Who knows,” Kinnaird said, “but I’m happy to be here celebrating this with my friends, my family and my town.”

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