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Bill Berloni

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Making Stars out of Strays Bill Berloni Trains Shelter Dogs and Puts Them in Big Time Broadway Shows

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Bill Berloni

Making Stars out of Strays Bill Berloni Trains Shelter Dogs and Puts Them in Big Time Broadway Shows

Bill Berloni studied acting with Stella Adler from 1976 to 1977.  Since then, he has done over 20 Broadway shows and hundreds of Off-Broadway and regional productions.  Though his work in film is not as extensive, among others, he has worked with Nora Ephron in Mixed Nuts, Woody Allen in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and Mike Nichols personally called him for Charlie Wilson’s War.  He has done single episode work on television, including a recent reality TV show.  He has been profiled by CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday Morning and because of the publication of his most recent book; he was interviewed on NPR and by People Magazine.  He is an animal trainer. 

In 1976, Bill Berloni, a wanna-be actor was working at a Connecticut summer stock theater building sets.  One day, the producer made Bill an offer he couldn’t refuse:  Find a dog and train him for this new show they were trying out called “Annie,” and Bill would get his Equity Card and play a small role in the production.  Of course he agreed, because at 18, you believe you can do anything.  He found the soon to be famous Sandy in a local shelter for $7. Bill improvised his own training regimen for the dog.  Sandy was a hit.  “Annie” flopped. 

Bill had grown quite attached to Sandy and took the dog with him to New York City.  He studied acting at New York University, living the life of your typical starving college student.  Imagine his surprise when Bill received a call from Mike Nichols’ office.  It seems Mr. Nichols was going to produce “Annie” on Broadway and asked Bill if he and Sandy would be interested in doing the show.  Of course Bill agreed again.  Sandy graced the stage for 2,333 “Annie” performances from 1976-1982. That put Bill Berloni on the map as THE animal trainer for the entertainment industry.  

By his own admission, when Bill agreed to train Sandy for the first production, he had no idea of what he was doing.   He literally “made it up as he went along.”

A combination of repetitive task training with positive reinforcement and “listening” to Sandy’s demands made an actor of the dog.  Somewhere in those early years, Bill promised himself to “hire” shelter and rescue dogs exclusively.  He figures he’s rescued somewhere around 200 animals, mostly dogs. To this day, one of the most often asked questions Bill fields is, “Why shelter dogs?” 

“I always respond, ‘Why not?’” says Bill.  “That question implies there’s something wrong with them. These are living creatures, who, through no fault of their own, have been invited into the human world and abandoned.  We owe them a debt of gratitude and a better end to their lives. Why wouldn’t you want to help a creature in need?  It saddens me that it’s so easy to find a great dog in these places — it’s a sad commentary on us as humans.”  

His credits read like a list of who’s who in show business.  Broadway shows include ANNIE, THE WIZARD OF OZ, CAMELOT, OLIVER, GYPSY, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, LEGALLY BLONDE, and dozens of others.  The list of stars he has worked with include Richard Burton, Liza Minnelli, Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Richard Harris, Bernadette Peters, Marlo Thomas, Marsha Gay Harden, Ben Gazzara, Patty Lapone, , Natalie Portman, Sutton Foster, Liberace and countless others.  He has worked with directors like Sam Mendez, James Lapine, Arthur Laurents and the above mentioned Mike Nichols, Nora Ephron, and Woody Allen. 

In the Fall of 2012, Bill starred and was Executive Producer of the NBC special ANNIE’S SEARCH FOR SANDY. He has published several books.  The most recent is BROADWAY TAILS; his autobiography of all his Broadway experiences and the animal rescue story behind each one which is in book stores and online now. Besides his training for entertainment, he has been the director of Animal Behavior for the Humane Society of New York in New York City for the last 15 years. 

Bill is not just the “Go to guy” for Broadway.  He is the ONLY guy.  He is the only person to figure out how to train an animal to be a character, an actor, not just a prop.  Bill’s own training in method acting, his background in technical theater and his God-given talent in communicating with animals has enabled him to do something no one else can do.  Bill’s book has brought new attention and awareness to what he has accomplished.  His own talent as an actor did not give him a career, but his talent for creating actors has employed him for over 30 years.  He can relate to audiences young and old who love animals or like a little show business gossip.  From schools, to universities to animal rescue groups to international conferences on animal cruelty, Bill speaks from the heart and can deliver a moving and meaningful presentation.

 

 

 

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