“Do you by any chance have a vintage stuffed dog?”

“No, but I have a small leather pig”

Now that rehearsals are underway and the cloud of worry that surrounds the beginning of any play is settling, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reminisce about the events that got me to this point.

I stood in the crowded Turl Street Kitchen, craning my neck to seek out a girl who looked like Kate O’Connor, or at least looked like a Kate O’Connor should look, since I had never met her before. That is the real problem with emailing: you can have long and rather informal conversations with someone you don’t know and have never met. I edged my way towards the bar, and the girl who stood next to me was cradling a copy of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. I’m no detective, but I thought that was enough to go on.

After some introductions, we sat down and chatted about the play. “The comedy is crap,” she said. I stared; here is a director that has chosen to put on a play which she herself thinks is crap. Great. I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence.

Please forgive my ignorance. Those who are well acquainted with Two Gents will be aware that Launce has a pet dog called Crab. My mind’s eye readjusted to take in “The comedy is Crab”. A rookie mistake. Well, at least I wasn’t auditioning, as it would have generally been awkward if I had spent the entire time cursing.

No crap Crab would do. I was to search high and low for the perfect stuffed dog on wheels. It is on these occasions where the outside world can really scare you. Having typed “vintage, stuffed dog on wheels” into my computer I was bombarded with a host of the scariest toys in Britain. There was one quite horrendous dog which, I admit with slight embarrassment, plagued my dreams that evening. It was bright pink, with round, giant, slightly glazed-over eyes and a creepy over-stretched smile. The overall impression was “buy me or I’ll kill you”. I resisted the threat and can say with a sigh of relief that I haven’t so far been visited in the night by a large, pink, psychotic dog. All in all, the search was becoming rather consuming. I remember coming across a pull-along wooden snail and considered purchasing it – no, Sarah, what use would you have for a pull-along wooden snail? It really is a niche market! Nevertheless, the hunt for Crab continues.

Stuffed dogs aside, the search for actors was also high on my list of priorities, especially male ones. Finding men in Oxford can be difficult enough, but in the Oxford Drama scene where the ratio of girls to boys is 3:1, this was going to be more of a challenge than searching for a date. And then came the Shakespeare. There is something about Shakespeare that causes even the best of actors to stand up tall, puff out their chest and use their “Shakespeare voice”. The era we are setting the play does not call for this style of acting; the language needed to be natural in order to fit in with the American jazz age scene atmosphere. All in all, we had our work cut out.

Thankfully, with a combination of begging, bullying, a duke transforming into a duchess, and many cries of “stop using your ‘Shakespeare voice’”, I can safely say we have a stellar cast and I am excited for rehearsals to begin.

Sarah Leonard is the producer for Barbarian Productions’ The Two Gentlemen of Verona, to be performed May 1st-5th in Christ Church Cathedral Gardens, complete with stuffed dog. Tune in next week for the director’s perspective, and for more information about Two Gents visit their website, www.barbarian-productions.com or follow them on twitter @twogentsox.