Mutt-Cracker (Sweet)

Mutt-Cracker (Sweet)


The Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!)
December 20, 2018-January 06, 2019

Presented by Presented by The VORTEX and Circus Chickendog

For the 8th year, our favorite canines and circus artists transform The VORTEX for the holidays with a fabulously fun show for All Ages. This year’s production once again stars five brilliant and talented rescue dogs (Mouse, Moose, Coyote, Squirrel, and Skeeter) and a talking scarlet macaw (Lauren MaCaw). Darren Peterson brings his masterful juggling and unicycling, as well his gifted dog training. Joining Darren with the magic of diabolo is Etienne Chauzy. 

The Mutt-Cracker (SWEET!) provides the most extraordinary original, holiday entertainment in Austin for the holidays at The VORTEX. Bring the whole family!


Melissa Vogt, Mick D’arcy, Patricia Wappner, Monica Kurtz, and Sandie Donzica.

production crew & Musicians

Tyler Mabry’s live original score also includes bits of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite. Vikki Schwarz joins Tyler on piano. Set Design by Ann Marie Gordon. Lighting Design Amy Lewis. Stage Management by Suzanne Smith.

About Circus Chickendog Artists

Circus Chickendog is an Austin-based troupe that has been entertaining audiences for decades. Previously featured nationally on David Letterman, Pet Star, and Donny and Marie, Circus Chickendog performs regularly in Austin at The Institution Theater.

Six-time Ironman, Darren Peterson received a BS in Mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin after interrupting his college studies for two years to join the Royal Lichtenstein Circus where he was the main juggler and unicyclist. After graduation, Darren taught High School math for three years and worked as an editor of math textbooks for four years. While editing math books, Chicken Dog began winning Disc Dog competitions, and Darren combined her tricks with his circus skills and became so popular that he no longer had time to edit math books. Chicken Dog is very happy about this as now Darren has more time to play with her.

Lauren MaCaw (Real-Life Nutcracker) This feisty redhead has been with Darren for over twenty years and loves singing. She knows her colors and numbers and thinks it's funny to get them wrong on stage-it makes her Daddy SO mad! She earns time outs for jumping on people, bossing the dogs around, and pooping on them! She tells them, “Good Dog,” sometimes. She tells Darren he's a good dog A LOT!

Moose and Mouse These Hurricane Katrina rescue dogs and litter mates came from a municipal dog shelter in Louisiana when they were eight months old and nearly feral, having been raised in a pack of 40+ dogs. They started off even more nervous than Chickendog but have learned to take comfort in knowing that they can make their Daddy happy by doing tricks that make him laugh, their biggest joy and persistent life mission. They are also the safety monitors of the show, but disagree on many of the finer points. Moose thinks it's important to teach “Stop, Drop, and Roll!” while Mouse thinks that it'd be better to teach kids, “Just don't catch on fire in the first place”.

Skeeter This super athlete came from the Northeast Arkansas Shelter on the day the world was supposed to end (12/21/2012). The shelter director was so thrilled that Skeeter had a chance to join our show that she put together a three-person relay team of car rides to get him to Dallas where he met his new Daddy. Skeeter is now training to be an agility dog, loves all of the additional attention, and is Chickendog's best friend.

Coyote and Squirrel These dogs were discarded by their breeder (who is an amazingly nice person), for being grossly misshapen. What makes her such a nice person? Well, she is smart enough to know what a good home Circus Chickendog is for dogs with way too much energy. Besides, when compared to Papillons that actually meet the breed standard, you can understand her point. Their new daddy picked them up after a 12-hour drive to Louisiana on April Fool's Day 2012. Darren thought the joke would be that he drove all that way and would be refused the dogs. The actual joke was that he took them. Puppies are SO much work!  Coyote's passion is playing frisbee and he will do anything to get his daddy to throw it for him. He has so much energy that he requires Aromatherapy-his go to calming smell is the smell of his Daddy's shoes. Squirrel is the baby of the family and totally has a Napoleon complex. She is in complete control of all the other dogs and everybody knows if Squirrel isn't happy, they won't be either. Squirrel is taking agility classes with Skeeter and laughs at her instructor when her Daddy is told, “Have her go just part of the way up so she doesn't get scared”.

James is Darren's younger brother, diagnosed with Downs Syndrome, and master dog wrangler. James takes care of much of the feeding, watering, crate cleaning, and keeping the non-working dogs happy and feeling loved while Darren concentrates on just one dog at a time. James' passion is music, and he has several thousand CD's.

Funded and supported in part by VORTEX Repertory Company, a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts and by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department.