Theatergoers looking for a little irreverence in their traditional holiday fare are in luck: Bert V. Royal, the writer of the award-winning play “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” has penned a sequel to that award-winning show, and readings held this weekend in Los Angeles will reunite many of its previous actors.
“The Gospel According to Matt: Confessions of a Teenage Dirtbag” will be presented on Sat., Dec. 13 at 7 and 9 p.m. and on Sun., Dec. 14 at 5 p.m. at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, CA to benefit the It Gets Better Project. The Saturday 9 p.m. performance includes a reception. The casts will be different for each reading, and include Heather Matarazzo (“Welcome to the Dollhouse”), Daniel Franzese (“Mean Girls“) and Lauren Collins (“Degrassi.”)
For the uninitiated, “Dog Sees God” imagines the characters from Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” as teenagers—their names are tweaked to avoid copyright issues. But this is no comic strip: the character based on Charlie Brown (called “CB”) has lost his beloved dog and is struggling with his sexual identity. Matt, the “Pigpen” character, is now a germophobe who commits a heinous crime. Though uproariously funny, there are also some surprisingly tender twists. Actors such as Anna Paquin, Alison Pill and Ian Somerhalder have appeared in previous productions.
Since “Dog Sees God” premiered in 2004, Royal has gone on to pen the Emma Stone comedy “Easy A” and is currently working on adapting the Jason Robert Brown musical “13” to the big screen.
How long have you toyed with the idea of a follow-up to “Dog Sees God”? Where did the impetus to finally write the script come from?
It’s been percolating for the last couple of years. But other obligations always prevented me from actually sitting down and writing it. But I’m glad that it worked out the way that it did, though. It feels like a good time for a revisit to some of the themes from “Dog Sees God.”
What can we expect from the show? What are you willing to reveal about where these characters are now?
An only slightly more mature group of kids. The humor from “Dog Sees God” is definitely there, but I think there’s a lot of poignancy in this new piece, as well. We’ll do a recap of the events in “DSG” to catch the new people up, but the play takes place a little over a year later. Matt and the Lucy character are still incarcerated at the Daisy Hill Juvenile Correctional Facility. CB is in college, but back in town for the holidays. His sister is dating Van. Marcy and Tricia have a new development in common.
How did you become involved with the It Gets Better Project?
I’ve been such a huge fan of this organization since its inception and it seemed a natural fit for continuing dialogue that 11 years later is still very relevant. They have been wonderful and supportive and we hope to raise a lot of money and awareness for them.
How did you go about assembling this impressive cast?
Blackmail. I have dirt on all of ’em. Kidding. That’s the most exciting thing about this reading to me is that it’s going to be this crazy union of cast members from New York, Toronto and new performers, as well. The original L.A. cast is reuniting for the Saturday 7pm performance and we’re still good friends, so that’s really exciting to me. I couldn’t be more stoked. And there’s nothing better than having a lot of fun for a very good cause.
The show has had so many incarnations over the years and with different actors playing the parts, did a particular performance cause you to think of a character in a new way for this version?
I went to Kansas City to rework the play with an incredibly talented group called Egads Theatre Company. That’s where I first met a teenager named Alex Saxon, who was playing the role of “Matt.” I had a lot of conversations with him about the role and he made me see the character differently. I think in a lot of ways those conversations laid the groundwork for this sequel. And now Alex is a series regular on an MTV show and has a bunch of fans and it’s really special to me that he’ll be performing the role of “Matt” at the Saturday 9 p.m. performance.