Family-friendly Popovich Conedy Pet Theater April 2

Imagine going to work each day with an entourage of 14 house cats, 12 dogs, 10 doves, six white mice, three geese, two goats, one parrot, one miniature horse, your daughter, your wife and six assistants.

Meet Gregory Popovich, multi-award-winning juggler, acrobat, physical comedian, circus clown, and the heart, soul and genius behind Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. The family-friendly show is coming to Struthers Library Theatre in Warren, at 2 p.m. on April 2. For tickets, visit strutherslibrarytheatre.com, call 814-723-7231, or visit the theatre office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at 302 West Third Avenue.

Kiev, Ukraine-born Popovich — dubbed “Dr. Dolittle from Moscow” by The New York Times — has been touring with his talented menagerie of rescued animals for almost 20 years, throughout the U.S. and in more than 25 countries worldwide. He’s a popular guest on late-night talk shows and was a finalist on “America’s Got Talent.” When not on tour, the show plays Planet Hollywood’s V Theater in Las Vegas.

“I grew up with many pets because my parents both worked with animals in their circus acts,” said Popovich, a fourth-generation, lifelong performer, cat whisperer and juggling innovator. (Popovich holds the world record for balancing on top of an unsupported, freestanding, 9-foot ladder while juggling nine rings.)

“Early on, I helped to take care of the cats and dogs and learned that it was not just fun to have pets, it was also a huge responsibility. I formed a connection with my furry friends that has only strengthened through the years, and it’s a bond I believe will last a lifetime.”

Animal training is a family affair that takes place year-round at the Popovich family’s ranch-style, Las Vegas home where more than 50 of his pets are housed. Bright lights and a loud CD simulating live clapping are introduced emulating the sights and sounds the animals will encounter onstage. Newcomers are allowed to sit and watch onstage until they learn their tricks. Training takes about six months for a cat and four for a dog.

“I don’t believe that I ‘train’ the animals to do a certain trick or stunt for the show,” explained Popovich. “Instead, I teach and encourage the animals to perform by allowing them to show off their individual personalities and talents. For example, one of my cats, Misha, loves to jump. So I incorporate his love for jumping into my show by building an act around his jumping abilities.”

“Another cat, Sugar, loves to climb, so I let him show off his climbing skills onstage, allowing him to be in the spotlight in his very own climbing act.” And, there are understudies backstage, ready at a moment’s notice to jump in.

While the show is unabashedly entertaining, Popovich also uses the spotlight to promote the adoption of pets from local shelters and is a staunch advocate for pet owners to spay and neuter their animal companions.

“Featuring animal actors in my show allows me the opportunity to spread the message that there are hundreds of thousands of animals in shelters, just like my four-legged performers, who are simply hoping and waiting to share their talents and love,” Popovich said. “In fact, I sometimes think that my show should be called ‘A Second Chance,’ because that’s exactly what my animals, and any of your adopted pets, have been given.”

In honor of Popovich’s mission to promote adoption, Struthers Library Theatre has teamed up with Warren’s Paws Along the River Humane Society. The results are a contest, a drawing and a special reception all to benefit animal adoption.

The Treats for Tricks Contest asks pet owners to share video or photos of their furry family members’ tricks on Facebook by March 27th. To be eligible to win show tickets and other pet prizes, include #PATR in your Facebook post. Winners will be selected by Gregory Popovich.

Anyone donating laundry soap or dish soap for Paws Along The River at the Struthers Library Theatre before the show on April 2 will receive a raffle ticket. A winner will be drawn at the show. The drawing will be for a fabulous pet-themed gift basket including: pet treats; pet toys; a gift certificate at Paws and Shop; A Perfect Puppy leash, harness, and treat bag; and more.

Gregory Popovich himself will be the guest of honor at a reception at Paws Along The River to be held from 11 a.m. until noon on April 2 before the show when he visits the local shelter residents.