Snakes On A Stage

Cleopatra's snake

A ball python from the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Antony and Cleopatra is seen in the NPR studio on Friday. Coburn Dukehart/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Coburn Dukehart/NPR

In Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt ends her life with the bite of a deadly asp. She plucks the asp from a basket, and, pressing it to her chest, beckons a swift death. But the Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, D.C., added another bit of drama to that closing scene — in its production, the deadly worm of Nilus is played by a real snake.

Three 20-inch ball pythons — Motimer, Cassini and Coco — take turns performing the snake's role, depending on their moods and feeding schedules. And after the show, the snakes can be found in the lobby, greeting fans with their handler, Dani Rose. Rose is a stagehand with the STC, but for this production, she has also taken on the role of snake wrangler.

Rose spent about six weeks training the snakes for their debut. She talks with NPR's Scott Simon about coaching pythons for the big stage.

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