Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.
Some people think that the phrase, “a trained housecat” is nothing short of an oxymoron. Cats are notoriously finicky about their willingness to perform tricks. But Gregory Popovich not only learned to train ordinary housecats, but transformed rescued cats from animal shelters into circus stars.
Popovich is the creative force behind the Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre, performing at the H. Ric Luhr’s Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University on February 16.
The current troupe of animals in the show includes 14 housecats, 12 dogs, parrots, doves and even some white mice. The animals all perform in various comedy routines mixed with Popovich’s own physical comedy and incredible juggling skills.
That juggling ability was developed by Popovich as a child, performing with his parents in the Moscow Circus. He won a number of international completions and eventually became a top star in the circus. In 1990 he was invited to join the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, the first Russian artist ever to appear in “the Greatest Show on Earth”.
While performing at the Circus Circus Hotel in Las Vegas, Popovich began to include his own pet kitten in his act as a comic prop. The response from the audience was consistently so great that he got the idea of building an entire act based on performing cats.
At the suggestion of a friend, Popovich went to animal shelters to look for more cats. When he visited the shelters, he was moved by the plight of the animals, and decided that all of his future stars would be adopted animals from the shelters.
The act began centered around cats, but later expanded to include other animals. Training the housecats, he says, required a totally different technique from training the other animals. “I have to use a completely positive-style working technique. I have to find out what each cat likes to do. I build the trick based on their natural habits, what they love to do in my living room. Because cats do what they like.”
Below you can hear our feature on Gregory Popovich and view a video of the Comedy Pet Theatre.
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