Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
The actor, poet, and playwright Steve Connell has loved animals throughout his life. When Steven Latham, producer and director of the PBS series Shelter Me, asked Steve to write something to inspire people to adopt pets, he couldn’t resist such a great opportunity. Steve created and performed “Let’s Go Home,” a poem about his pets and his friends’ pets that encourages others to visit animal shelters, for a segment on episode three: Shelter Me: Second Chances.
We caught up with Steve to talk about his experience.
How did you react when Steven Latham asked you to perform this piece?
I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to contribute to something that means a lot to so many. What he told me was, “Let’s shape the way people look at animal shelters — the concept that animal shelters are sad, depressing places.” That to me seemed amazing.
How have your pets helped you create this piece?
Multiple stories are built around pets I’ve owned and pets that close friends have owned. Animals are a huge part of our lives. I know how significant the shelter system is and how great the animals come out of it are, so I thought that was a really cool thing to do — and to create an emotional investment, to remind people why we love our animals.
What was your experience like putting it together?
It was great. We ultimately filmed it in a shelter that hadn’t yet opened. Going there, meeting the people, doing the research, and walking around with the animals and filming it in a shelter was significant [to me] as a writer and a performer because you try to absorb the energy and be inspired by the experience. Recently, at the premiere of the fifth episode, [Steven] had me come perform it live. When I arrived, there was an energy shift. People brought some of their animals. To interact live is a different experience, and it went incredibly well and got a standing ovation. The standing ovation was amazing because it was the first time I performed the piece live.
To feel the energy of the audience and the community being so genuinely inspired was great. You always have these different experiences with audiences. There’s a difference between “I killed that show” and the connection that happens afterward when you can actually see in the faces — it resonates beyond entertainment to an emotional place where you feel like you’re not just speaking to them, you’re speaking for them.
What did you hope to accomplish?
The goal here was to not see shelters as sad places, and to try to create a movement where people go to shelters and see them as an opportunity. If we can make people realize that there’s an opportunity for love, you can find love anywhere. There’s incredible people working in these shelters; there are incredible animals in these shelters, and all they need is somebody who is willing to show up and take a chance on them.
Follow Steve Connell on Twitter and Shelter Me on Facebook. Visit the Shelter Me website to find out the next screening in your area. Read about Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell’s dedicating a week of his strip to shelter animals and being featured on Shelter Me.
About the author: Samar Khoury is the assistant editor of Catster magazine.