"My mother wouldn't let me have dogs growing up," says Circus Chickendog ringmaster Darren Peterson. "So, you know, look at me now."
Now Peterson is the creative mind behind Circus Chickendog, a local production company that stages shows filled with juggling, circus acts, and especially dog tricks. Peterson's stable of canine performers currently comprises some five rescue dogs, including Moose and Mouse, who Peterson refers to as "the stars of the show." Peterson's love for dogs, juggling, and circus acts might be a reaction to his upbringing. "That was what she said. 'If you want to throw things in the house, buy your own house. If you want a dog, buy your own house.' And now I've got my own house. I bought a house and accidentally created a circus."
Circus Chickendog regularly puts on full-sized shows with guest performers and plotlines (their Christmas season "Muttcracker" show has become a holiday tradition), but this series of performances is all about doing as many tricks as possible. "The other shows I do during the year are way more produced," Peterson says. "And this my chance to just do tricks."
And he's planning to do a lot of tricks. The show is called "1001 Tricks in an Hour," and Peterson insists that title is factually accurate. Often those tricks are inspired by the dogs themselves. "I watch what they do," says Peterson. "I'll have an idea in my mind... but they'll come up with something totally different."
For this show, Peterson will be joined by Wandering Spleen, a brass band made up of UT students. "We're primarily scientists and engineers," says bandleader Mitchell Pham. "This'll be our first official gig, and we're pretty excited for it."
"I saw them on Congress a few weeks ago, and the audience was loving them, people were dancing," says Peterson. His younger brother James, who serves as the show's dog wrangler, was also taken with the band. "Anything that gets James interested I know is good. And it's just the classic circus music."