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Popovich Comedy Pet Theater returns to Luhrs Center at Shippensburg, Pa.

February 14, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • Gregory Popovich performs with 16 cats and 13 dogs in Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. The show is coming to Shippensburg, Pa. on Saturday.
Submitted photo

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Cat owners would be amazed at the way Gregory Popovich is able to corral his cats in his show, Popovich Comedy Pet Theater, which stops Saturday for two shows at Shippensburg University.

Popovich insists that it's not a special training technique, in fact, it's the same one he uses on his dogs — nothing.

"In my case, special technique is based on their natural habits," Popovich said during a telephone interview on the road in New Hampshire, his Russian accent punctuating his English. "I don't ask them to do something difficult or something unusual. I just try open up their personality."

A fourth-generation Russian circus performer, Popovich grew up watching his parents with their dog-training work. Instead of following in his parents' footsteps, Popovich said he wanted to do something on his own — juggling.

"Like all young people who'd love to do something of their own. I decided to do my own (thing)," he said. "I practice a lot. I win a lot of circus competitions."

Popovich created a juggling act on a free-standing ladder, and eventually became a member of the Moscow Circus Group at age 17.

"I do all juggling routine, while balancing things on the top of the ladder," he said.

He went on to win circus competitions in Paris, Brussels, Mexico City and Monte Carlo. Eventually, he would land with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, becoming the circus' first Russian performer in the center ring.

"It was very prestige and big deal," he said.

Animals didn't come into his act until 1992, while he was a featured performer at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He and his wife, Izolda, thought they would add their cat, Snowbird, into Popovich's act. 

"Me and my wife had a kitty-cat at home and this kitty just acting so funny; just play with himself," he said. "I decided just for fun, let's try to do this, like accidentally instead of props out of my case, we'll hide kitty in the briefcase. When I go onstage, and open the briefcase, from this briefcase out jump small kitty. It was surprise for audience."

After that, the animals became part of the show.

"This type of audience lead me what they want to see and that's how it start," he said.

Today, Popovich's show includes 16 cats and 13 dogs — all of which are rescued animals. It's something that is important for him.

He said when he came to the U.S. he was surprised to find the animal shelters, where animals were housed in buildings and staff were paid to run the organizations.

"Later I realize how those kitty or puppy came to the shelter and many times it was very sad story," he said.

That's why, he said, he decided to only use pets from an animal shelter.

"During my show, I try to send message to the audience, look these are my pets, they are very talented and look very good and if you folks, after my show, visit the local animal shelter," he said.

Popovich said when he goes to the shelter for his next "star," he's looking for a personality.

"I keep open mind when I visit the shelter," he said. "I don't do look for specific breed. I'm just looking for personality. Because my show called Pet Theater, because why I call this is because it is new way participate pets in show business. I don't ask pets to do some difficult trick."

His technique has helped him in his seven seasons at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. It also gave him some national airtime when he appeared on "America's Got Talent."

When Popovich isn't on the road, he and his family live outside of Las Vegas in what he calls a "rancher-style home." He said he has a big backyard and two buildings with kennels.

The act, he said, isn't a one-man show. He also has eight people who help with the animals as well as are performers themselves.

But, he knows, it's about the animals.

"Audience likes this style, it's something fresh, something new. And they see animals happy," he said.





If you go ...

What: Popovich Comedy Pet Theater

When: 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16

Where:  Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

Cost: Tickets cost $12 to $18

Contact: Call 717-477-7469 or go to www.luhrscenter.com



Submitted photos

Gregory Popovich performs with 16 cats and 13 dogs in Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. The show is coming to Shippensburg, Pa. on Saturday.

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