When it comes to award shows, producers and agents get all the thank yous, but for one Tony Award winner it’s the dogs in his life who get the credit.
Bill Berloni, of William Berloni Theatrical Animals, received a Tony Award for Excellence in the Theatre during a taped ceremony that is expected to air during tonight’s Tony Awards for his long-time work with stage animals.
“I’m getting this award for excellence in theater through my work with animals. It’s not hard to be excellent when I work with those who have an absolute absence of malice, are forgiving and enjoy working in the moment,” the East Haddam patch reported Berloni as saying.
Berloni got started in the business in 1976, at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn. The now 54-year-old was a recent high school graduate and was promised his Equity card and a part in one of their shows if he could get a dog and train it to play Sandy — Little Orphan Annie’s best friend.
He rescued the original Sandy for $7 the day before it was scheduled to be euthanized at an animal shelter. The dog ended up playing in almost every single performance of the show when “Annie” moved to Broadway a year later.
The aspiring actor turned animal trainer hopes his Tony will help create a fair working environment for animal actors.
“There is a frustration in educating people that animals are sentient beings,” Berloni told the Middletown Press. “There are no laws to protect animals in the entertainment industry. All my life it has been about advocating for animals. It has been a constant uphill battle.”