Photo left by Steve Shay,Photo right by Frank Huster for Garth Stein
Sylvie Davidson, left, portrays Eve, and pets Enzo, the family dog, portrayed by David S. Hogan for a scene in the play, "The Art of Racing in the Rain", at Book-It Repertory Theatre at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center, running April 17 to May 13, based on Seattle author Garth Stein's best-selling book. Stein is pictured, right, Enzo believes he will become reincarnated into a man, and the piece is seen through his eyes. Hogan is a West Seattle & White Center actor, and real-life dog walker, trainer. For tickers, phone 206- 216-0833 or visit www.book-it.org

West Seattle dog trainer, walker, portrays famous dog in Garth Stein play at Seattle Center

David S. Hogan unleashes his talent as Enzo the lab-terrier in "The Art of Racing in the Rain"

Seattle author Garth Stein's wildly successful novel "The Art of Racing in the Rain" has been adapted for the stage at Book-It Repertory Theatre , Seattle Center, April 17 to May 13. The book, released in 2008, has been a New York Times best-seller for 173 weeks and still counting, and while it has been translated into over 30 languages, it is the language of a lab-terrier mix, Enzo, that seems to connect with the reader.

The official synopsis explains that Enzo knows he is different from the other dogs, and has educated himself by watching TV, and listening to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast.

Portraying Enzo is West Seattle/White Center professional actor David S. Hogan who also happens to be a professional dog trainer and walker.

Hogan also co-stars in the just-released film short "All My Presidents". The West Seattle Herald reported on the film, and on its March 18 opening gala at the Admiral Theater. In that film, produced by West Seattle's Alder Sherwood, its author Sarah MacKay, and Lisa Coronado, who also co-stars, Hogan portrays a villain Ted, a scheming campaign manager. In "The Art of Racing in the Rain" he is a warmer and fuzzier soul.

Hogan explained his pet epiphany to the West Seattle Herald during a recent dress rehearsal, "I was on stage in a rehearsal and someone came up and started giving me a little scratch on my back between takes. It was then that I felt I actually made it. People were treating me like a dog."

He said his background in dog training, plus, getting his own dog with his wife, Angela DiMarco, a West Seattle-raised actress, gave him a leg up to portray Enzo.

"I have been around dogs a lot, learning and studying dog behavior, working with dogs professionally, and getting our own dog in 2003," he said. "I am constantly watching them communicate with each other, with us. I observe their gestures sounds, the way they listen and react to things really helped me prepare for this role. I haven't done the drooling, just for technical reasons. It would dry up my throat," he grinned, with tongue hanging out of cheek.

Long-time West Seattle actor Peter Jacobs also appears.

"I play Eve's father, (Eve is Denny's wife) and I play an Italian race car owner, a judge, a farmer, and a zebra," said the versatile thespian. He portrayed Steve Prefontaine's father, Ray, in the 1977 Hollywood film, Prefontaine, and has appeared at the Seattle Children's Theatre, ACT Theatre, on TV shows, and numerous TV and radio commercials.

In a telephone interview, Garth Stein spoke to the West Seattle Herald enthusiastically about the play which is the first production based on his book, and about Hogan's portrayal of the beloved K9. Stein has written several other best-selling books. A film is in the works for "The Art of Racing in the Rain" starring Patrick Dempsey as Denny.

"David's terrific," said Stein, whose real-life dog, Comet can be seen in action on his website, www.garthstein.com. "Actors are by nature good listeners. A good dog trainer has to, in a sense, anticipate the mood of a dog. I think it would be nice to say, 'Oh yeah. His working with dogs helps him play a dog'. But I think, in general, his working with dogs helps him as an actor and an actor has to be sensitive and able to sort of read the moods and thoughts of any character.

Stein continued, "People often say, 'You must have written this because you love dogs and therefore you wrote a dog book.' That's really not the way it happened. I was interested in the character of Enzo and his particular dilemma and frustration in which he wants two things that are mutually exclusive. He wants to be reincarnated so he can come back as a man.

"But he also wants to stay in this life because he loves his family so much and wants to be with them," he said. "This frustration makes for a good character. Yes, he's a dog, but he could have been a person. He could have been anything. I think in that way David is a talented enough actor that, sure, what he does in his real life is going to help, and it makes a good story. But in fact, if you're a good actor you are doing that anyway."

A real-life character, Seattle-area race car driver Don Kitch, Jr., appears in the book, and play. Stein said, "It is going to be funny to see the actor Don Kitch playing in front of the real Don Kitch." Kitch operates Proformance Racing School at Pacific Raceways, in Kent. Kitch's fluffy golden retriever, GT, appears prominently on his professional website.

"I took David and other characters in the cast down to the race track," said Stein. "Don Kitch's instructors took them for hot laps to get the feel of what it's like to be in a race car, and David came out of that race car with a big old smile on his face, just like Enzo would have."

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