Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre Company opens its 2018-2019 season with a production of the Tony Award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the story of 15-year-old Christopher Boome. On the autism spectrum, Christopher is incredibly talented at math, but never ventures beyond his street and strongly distrusts strangers. When his neighbour’s dog is killed, he challenges his own barriers to uncover the truth.
A unique and technically challenging production, it also marks the directorial debut of the Arts Club’s new artistic director Ashlie Corcoran.
“The script calls for a fresh blend of theatricality,” says Corcoran. “From intricate feats of technical design to low-tech corporeal storytelling by the actors. This combination creates theatrical magic, and is a form of theatre that I believe our audiences will delight in.”
For Itai Erdal it is a lighting designer’s dream. “Because the set is so abstract and the play moves forward so fluidly, the design team must work together to create each location in the story with lighting, projections, and sound.”
In addition to dealing with the play’s technical challenges, Corcoran has also enlisted the help of Jake Anthony, a professional actor living with high-functioning autism, as the show’s cultural creative consultant.
In his role, Anthony is responsible for ensuring the accurate and respectful portrayal of autism onstage.
“Since early in the summer, I’ve worked with Ashlie, the set, lighting, projection and sound designers, as well as the movement director, Kayla Dunbar, to visually bring Christopher’s view of the world around him as an autistic to life onstage,” he explains.
While saying he is in his element helping the cast and creative team with the play’s depiction of autism, it has also meant a change to his regular role as an actor.
“The only adjustment for me is that it’s a bit different being in the rehearsal hall, behind the director’s table, instead of onstage,” he says. “But it’s been and continues to be a great, personally rewarding experience.”
It also helps that Anthony read the book on which the play is based back in high school, and appreciates its authenticity.
“[I] was blown away by the accuracy in which the story is told through the eyes and viewpoint of an individual with autism,” he says. “I’ve never read a book or play that got it so right.”
In addition to working with the actors and creative team in the rehearsal hall, Anthony is also working with the outreach and education team to develop a relaxed performance for The Curious Incident, the first of its kind for the Arts Club.
An inclusive experience designed to welcome patrons of all ages and sensitivities, a relaxed performance contains modifications to maximize the comfort of attendees. Sound and lighting cues are adjusted to be more subdued. Anyone feeling overwhelmed or restless can move around or exit the theatre and take advantage of “cool down booths” in the lobby, where individuals can calm down privately until they feel ready to re-enter the theatre.
“Relaxed performances are vital for theatre patrons with autism, anxiety disorders, learning challenges and other diverse abilities, who may experience discomfort and sensory overload in a traditional theatre setting to enjoy the show comfortably,” says Anthony.
The relaxed performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will take place on September 30, with tickets offered at a discounted rate.
“I’m delighted knowing that the Arts Club is doing relaxed performances, and plans to continue to do them in future shows,” says Anthony. “This makes the fabulous works staged each season at the Arts Club accessible for everyone who comes to see one of the company’s productions.”
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time opens at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville St, Vancouver) on September 6 and continues through October 7. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and information.