Every dawg has its day. At long last that day has come for Browns fans.
Long overdue recognition has arrived for Browns fans -- in the form of a play, written by a loyal Browns fan.
"Dawg Pounded," a play by Cleveland native Tim Tyler, opens for its second season on Friday, offering a combination of comedic relief and therapy for Browns fans.
Browns fans joke every year that the team provides enough fodder for a reality television show. This is the sentiment Tyler attempted to capture in his first rendition of the play, taking the audience through the trials and tribulations of an average Browns season. Three main characters carried the dialogue, with Browns-themed songs and history lessons sprinkled in.
Tyler's efforts scored high marks with Browns fans, as "Dawg Pounded" sold out each of its ten shows in its debut season at the 100-seat Kennedy Theatre in Playhouse Square.
The success of the show led Tyler to opt for a second season in 2015. But this time around, following an up and down Browns season, Tyler wanted to do something a little different.
"Last year, we did the mythical Browns season, where it started bad and it just got worse. But I felt if we were going to come back another year, and there seemed to be a demand for it, we couldn't do that again," Tyler said. "We had to review, or map it out, to fit the 2014 season. Fortunately, most Browns seasons are the same, so we could use about 70% of the material from last year, tweak it, and move things around. And also add some new stuff, like starting off so well, then hitting the skids, then Johnny coming in and not doing too well, either. We ended the season down in the dumps, that's what we're going for."
Just like last year, the play features three main characters: Paul, Otto, and Pittsburgh Pete.
Tyler picked the name "Paul" after Paul Brown and named "Otto" after the great Otto Graham. Pittsburgh Pete, the villain of the play, represents the Pennsylvania foreigners who take pride in deviling Browns fans.
"Paul is the soul of the Cleveland fan. Then, there's Otto, who is kind of his conscience and tries to keep him upbeat," Tyler said. "But then there's a part of the play where Otto is ready to give up and Paul has to prop him up. And we needed some conflict, so that's where Pittsburgh Pete comes in."
Veteran actor Tom Hill plays Paul, drawing on his personal experience to play a quintessential Browns fan.
"In some ways, I really am Paul, because I grew up as a Browns fan. I was nine when they won their last championship, and I remember the game very well, although I did not actually go to the game, like my character did," Hill said. "I've just grown up with the Browns and have this same kind of senseless devotion to the team. Every year, I think, 'Nah, I'm not going to let this get to me.' Then, every year, it's 'Go Browns! This is our year! We're going to be good: all of the sports guys say so!'"
Hill's character is easily relatable for many Cleveland fans who see the play.
"Last year when I did this, I had so many people come up to me and say, 'You were saying everything I say and think during Browns season,'" Hill said. "One of my best friends said during the show, his wife turned to him and said, 'That's you. He's playing you. This is what you say every week!'"
Greg Mandryk plays the lovable, optimistic Otto. A 15-year Cleveland comedy and theatre vet, Mandryk found his way into the play through his previous connection with Tyler.
Mandryk was part of the dark room play reading of "Dawg Pounded" at Cleveland Public Theatre. At the time, the play was called "A Tale of Two Football Cities." While the play was not yet perfected, Tyler saw Otto in Mandryk.
"[Tim] said he liked the way I was reading it, and he started to write Otto in the way I was doing my lines. He asked me to do it, and I said, 'Well, I can't say no.'"
While Mandryk admits that he is not the biggest sports fan on the cast, he still fully understands being a Browns fan. As he aptly described it, "It's like not wanting to go into the lottery pool at work. You know if you don't, they're going to win it."
While Paul and Otto carry a heavy load with lots of lines to memorize, Pittsburgh Pete has a tough role, too. Playing a towel waver isn't easy for a Browns fan.
Enter Don Jones, the savy actor who plays the hated Pittsburgh Pete.
"I wanted the lead in this. It's a comedy, it's about the Browns, this is my life!" Jones said. "I live in Canton, and I started out at a Browns fan, watching Jim Brown. I was seven, eight years old when he was in his heyday ...
"Then, they wanted me to read for Pittsburgh Pete. I said, 'You're probably going to like what you see because I have a lot of faith in what good of a character actor I am, but don't cast me as this. I don't want to be that guy. I hate those guys. I don't know if I could do this.' But it's wound up being the most fun I've ever had. It's an absolute blast: I love playing with the Browns fans. Last year, they started to chant, 'A**hole, a**hole!' and it was the highlight of my day."
Jones put plenty of hours of research into the role, even creating his own goofy costumes for the character.
"The first thing I decided to do was to make him as icky as possible, as undesirable as possible," Jones said. "I wanted to make him the biggest a**hole I could. But soon after, we twisted him into a big goofball. He's any funny character in a sitcom you can think of, he's the oddball character. We have a blast with it. We just have so much fun doing the show: the fans laugh, yell stuff, and it's hysterical."
The trio enjoys performing the show, and particularly enjoy working with each other.
All you have to do is sit with the three for a few minutes, and you'll notice a certain chemistry about the small group.
"There's no divas, there's no alphas in the cast," Jones said. "There's two sides of the cast: there's an ensemble that sings parody songs and there's comedy sketch thing that goes on between the three of us. Then there's a little break called Browns in jeopardy, which is my favorite thing so far. We're all veteran actors. We don't have to put up with somebody who's putting on airs or do something stupid. We all help each other."
The cast receives plenty of help from Tyler and the show's producer, Rita Bigham. The two met in 2010, and have pursued their big break in the theatre business ever since. Tyler and Bigham, who are also a couple, form a happy partnership both in and out of the theatre.
The duo is both nervous and excited for the debut of the second season on Friday at 8 p.m. "Dawg Pounded" will show at Kennedy's Theatre on July 17-18, 24-25, 31 and August 1, 7-8. The show will then show at Hofbrauhaus Cleveland on August 15, 21-22, 28-29; September 5, 11-12, 18-19, and 25-26. The total number of shows doubles to 20 this season.
"It's a funny show, the fans love it," Jones said. "If you're a Browns fan, come and enjoy it."