For most people, the ability to connect with others, be touched, and explore the everyday world doesn’t take much effort. It’s different though for Christopher Boone—a fifteen-year-old living with autism—because even the simple act of holding a conversation with someone can overload his senses and emotions. What happens when the neighbor’s dog is found speared with a garden fork and Christopher becomes a suspect? Find out when The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time comes to Trustus Theatre. This production will feature the Trustus debut of Beck Chandler, the first actor with autism to play the role in the Southeast. It also features British actor Scott Pattison as Christopher’s father, and his performance is supported in part by a South Carolina Arts Commission Performance Initiative Grant. Simon Stephens’ script adaptation, which won the 2015 Tony for Best Play and was based on the award-winning novel by Mark Haddon, will come to life at Trustus Theatre on Friday, January 18 and will run through Saturday, February 9, 2019. Shows will run Thursday through Sunday for three packed weeks of performances. Tickets may be purchased at www.trustus.org, or by calling the Trustus Box Office at 803-254-9732.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the 2015 Tony Winner for Best Play, tells the story of 15-year-old Christopher. The young hero has an extraordinary brain: he is exceptional at mathematics but he’s ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched, and he distrusts strangers. Now, it is 7 minutes after midnight, and Christopher stands beside his neighbor’s dead dog, Wellington, who has been speared with a garden fork. Finding himself under suspicion, Christopher is determined to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington, and he carefully records each fact of the crime. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a thrilling journey that upturns his world.
This play is based on the novel by Mark Haddon, originally published in May 2003, and has been adapted by Simon Stephens. It will be directed by Trustus Theatre’s Artistic Director, Chad Henderson. The play stars actors Beck Chandler, Libby Hawkins, Michael Hazin, Christine Hellman, Raia Jane Hirsch, Donna McKenna, Clint Poston, Tashera Pravato, Elizabeth Stepp, Scott Smith-Pattison, and G. Scott Wild. Beck Chandler, playing Christopher Boone, is the first actor living with autism to take the main stage at a theatre in South Carolina. Henderson is excited about the opportunity to work with Beck and to have him star in this role.
“When I saw Beck’s original audition at our open-call session, I found him very inviting as a performer and wanted to see him in this role because he was one of the younger actors that we saw at those auditions,” Henderson said. “He was open with me after he was called back for the part of Christopher, and told me that he was honored to have a chance to read for the role because he was an actor living with autism. Beck is a talented actor, and I think audiences will be delighted to witness his performance. I find it inspiring to not only have an actor in the role who is versatile and endearing, but that we’re able to learn from Beck as we work on this show. While he is certainly creating this role anew, he is able to bring authenticity to the performance of Chris by layering his own experiences, knowledge, and truths as an actor living with autism.”
“Autism can be very difficult to understand, and this is even true for people with it,” Chandler said. “While other actors’ imitations are very sincere, I believe it takes experience to be able to walk around inside of Christopher’s head. I plan on bringing depth to the character and drawing on my experiences to give a genuine and relatable performance. It is very rare to see an autistic character, but it is extraordinary to have such a fantastic work be fully from an autistic perspective. I know the audiences will be amazed by the fantastical scenes that Christopher creates. We can learn a lot from this play—it shows us that difference can be powerful and that autism can be used as a strength.”
“I would describe autism as a different way of thinking and processing information,” Chandler said. “People with autism interpret the world in an entirely distinct way. After many years of therapy and treatment, I am lucky to be able to function normally in society. While I don’t have as many of the obvious symptoms that I used to, I still feel the same way inside. The best way to describe it would be that everything is magnified to such a degree that it can easily become overwhelming. I often get confused by my surroundings, but I have learned to cope as best as I can.”
With support from an SC Arts Commission Performance Initiative Grant, Trustus Theatre is able to bring Scott Smith-Pattison onto the production in the role of Ed (Christopher’s father.) Smith-Pattison is originally from Coventry, England, and since the play is set in England, he has been very helpful in helping police the authenticity of the dialects and other regional information.
“Scott is a very talented actor, and a member of Actors Equity Association which is the professional union for stage actors and stage managers,” Henderson said. “He is a Core Member at PURE Theatre in Charleston, SC that I met when I was working on Fun Home at PURE in Winter 2018. I thought he was a very charming guy, and when we decided to produce this play, I knew I wanted him in it. He’ll be a new performer for Columbia and I can’t wait for him to make his debut on our stage.”
The team at Trustus is also excited to welcome former Company Member Baxter Engle back to Columbia to create the scenic and media designs for this production. Engle is currently based out of NYC where he works for Production Glue, an event company that works with large clients like Nike. Audiences may remember Engle’s work at Trustus on such productions as American Idiot and Black Super Hero Magic Mama.
“We knew we wanted to honor the intent of the original production. which used a lot of media to make Christopher’s world come to life,” Henderson said. “The key to make this production a visual success was getting Baxter on board. As soon as he gave the thumbs up, we programmed the production.”
“I think Columbia is in for a real theatrical treat with this production,” Henderson said. “This is personally one of my favorite shows that I’ve seen or read in the past few years, and I can’t wait for Columbia to experience it. I would say the best reason to see this play is to ponder the question: ‘I can do anything, right?’ I think this show is inviting for so many types of people. It’s a family story, it’s an adventure, it’s empowering, it’s about romantic relationships, it’s about trust, and it’s about people doing the best they can despite their circumstances. There’s so much that audiences can relate to in this piece. Not to mention, it’s a piece that calls for high-octane creativity and unexpected story-telling. This cast and production team provides that in great supply.”
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will run from Friday, January 18 through to Saturday, February 9, 2019 and tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Trustus Theatre Box Office at 803-254-9732 or online at trustus.org. Opening night is Friday, January 18, at 8pm. The performances following are on Saturday, January 19, at 8pm; Sunday, January 20, at 3pm; Thursday, January 24, at 7:30pm; Friday, January 25, at 8pm; Saturday, January 26, at 8pm; Sunday, January 27, at 3pm; Thursday, January 31, at 7:30pm; Friday, February 1, at 8pm; Saturday, February 2, at 8pm; Sunday, February 3, at 3pm; Thursday, February 7 at 7:30pm; Friday, February 8, at 8pm; and Saturday, February 9 at 8pm.
This project is supported by a grant from Aflac, housed at Central Carolina Community Foundation.
This organization is funded in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Presenting and Performing Arts (PPA) Initiative: Presenting the work of Scott Smith-Pattison.