“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

The Smith College Department of Theatre presents The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, October 25, 26, 31, November 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Theatre 14. Directed by Ellen W. Kaplan, the play—adapted from the Mark Haddon novel by Simon Stephens—tells the story of Christopher, an autistic teen, who sets out to solve the mystery of who murdered the neighbor’s dog. Their detective work leads to an earth-shattering discovery, and to a thrilling journey that will change their life forever.

Director Ellen W. Kaplan explains what drew her to the play, “It is a terrific story, about curiosity, courage, learning to live, and mending broken relationships. The main character, Christopher Boone, is neurodivergent, but it is not only a play about autism; rather, it is an adventure, a quest, and coming of age story that explores universal themes about the difficulty of fitting in and finding our place in the world.” Interwoven through Christopher’s personal journey, is a classic detective story with clues, suspects, and surprising twists that are revealed in 58 scenes with 10 actors playing multiple characters.

Winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play, Curious Incident makes creative use of set, light, projection and sound design to convey Christopher’s non-neurotypical experience of the world. “One of the challenges of staging this play is presenting the world as Christopher senses it, how do we do that visually, sonically? And, how does the world we create shift and change to reflect the growth in the character? And, the most important challenge, how do we accomplish it in a way that is safe for all members of our cast and crew?”  

To avoid inaccurate representation, Kaplan has assembled a neurodiverse team of actors, designers, and stage crew from the Smith community and beyond. She also works with an advisory committee of autistic and neurodivergent community members to advise her on the responsible portrayal of autistic people. Committee member, Ellie Danford serves as an advocate for autistic cast and crew members’ accessibility needs during the rehearsal and production, and to help find a careful balance between portraying sensory overload without causing harm. Danford describes her role this way, “Practically, this means I attend most rehearsals and check in with cast and crew to make sure boundaries are being respected and that our autistic cast members always have an extra voice supporting them.” She will also participate in a talkback following the October 26 show with members of the cast and creative team.

The set designer is Priscilla Yichen Zhou ’20 who joins Nan Zhang in lighting design. Yana Biryukova, returns to Smith College as a guest designer for the projections. Anaïs Main ’21 is designing the costumes and David Wiggall is the show’s sound designer. Michelle Erard MFA ’19 is choreographing the ensemble.

Kaplan adds, “The thing that amazes me about this play, and the brilliant collaborators that I get to work with, is that I keep finding new layers to the story and characters. I want the audience to share in this feeling of discovery and to experience a sense of wonder. Perhaps we can join Christopher in his leap of faith and realize that we too, can do anything.”

The show runs over two weekends in Theatre 14 at Smith Colleges’ Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. Reserved seat tickets are $10 for Adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for Smith students with ID. Full details and to purchase tickets at www.smith.edu/smitharts.