For the run of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” opening Feb. 2 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, its director hopes audiences will take away an appreciation of the many varied and beautiful ways the brain works.
The play, based on the novel by Mark Haddon, opens with a young man named Christopher discovering that his neighbor’s dog has been murdered with a pitchfork. He feels empowered to solve the crime himself.
Christopher sees the world differently, the playwright tells us. He never uses the word “autistic,” said Whitaker Gannon, director of the show. However, “Christopher’s behavior is similar to those with autism.”
Gannon has personal experience with someone like Christopher: her brother. “My relationship with my brother, Blake, who is on autism spectrum, has greatly influenced how I see the world,” she said. “Growing up with Blake, I’ve been able to see autism in a way that goes beyond general perception. Because of him, I have seen things that I would not have noticed otherwise.”
Gannon said the script stays pretty true to the novel, which is good because “we can use that as a guide for how to present the show.” Audiences can expect some twists and turns, not only in the story, but in the way it is presented on stage.
The cast is made up of 10 actors total, but Christopher encounters different people on his journey, and six of the actors play about 30 different characters.
They stay very involved throughout the story. In some “stylized” moments, they become almost an extension of Christopher himself.
“We are, as most other productions, using Christopher’s autism to tell the story – embracing that perspective of Christopher as autistic,” Gannon said. Interestingly for this production, the lead actor is on the autism spectrum.
Gannon said her personal life experience will certainly inform how she directs the show. And, she said, her brother’s experiences have caused her to expand her own way of thinking.
“I hope I can show audiences that autism is much more nuanced than what most people think,” she said. “There are many beautiful, wonderful things that Christopher sees. I am excited to bring my knowledge to this show and hope I do it justice. I want the world to see what autism does look like and what it can look like.”
Performances are Feb. 2-20 at the Arts Center, 14 Shelter Cove Lane on Hilton Head Island. The show is recommended for ages 12 and up. For tickets and more information, call 843-842-2787 or visit artshhi.org.