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The show must go on for 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'

Theatre School students find new ways to engage audience members on the autism spectrum

The show must go on for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Being told you can no longer perform the play you've spent a whole year planning and designing is challenging. Then add in the element of capturing the impact of a play without using the script. Director Ben Raanan, an MFA student in his final year at The Theatre School, and the students working on “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" quickly adapted to find a new way to connect with audiences.

Winner of Olivier and Tony Awards, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" explores the complexity and challenges of Christopher's daily life as a 15-year-old living with autism. Christopher launches an investigation and goes on a journey of self-discovery after finding that his neighbor's dog, Wellington, has been killed. Due to rights restrictions, the performance of the play could not move online.

“From the outset of COVID-19 and having to scramble to figure out how to shift our production, we were forced into the question of 'how do we keep the themes of the play alive in a new medium?'" explains Gilly Caulo, an MFA Acting student in his third and final year. “In answering that question, we felt the themes of the play best translated into something other than a play."

In keeping with the themes of the play, the cast and the creative team are combating isolation by bringing support to individuals with autism and their families. The students have been working to create a multidisciplinary website to help calm anxiety for people with autism during this time of uncertainty. The website will include 15 hours of video created by the cast to relax the senses. In addition, there will be around 200 pages of social stories dedicated to explaining different elements of the new world in which we live.

The website launches on Friday May 29, with a live event at 7:30 p.m. featuring the cast walking audience members through the site. In order to sign up and receive a zoom link for this live event, please fill out the form here. Student actors will also be going live via The Theatre School's Instagram account - @theatreschooldepaul - each day from May 19 - 29, from 5 to 6 p.m., to provide Heartbeat Hellos.

Hunter provided a workshop for the cast and creative team of the production in preparation for this project and will be offering another workshop that will be opened up to the community and presented over zoom in the coming weeks. These workshops are made possible through a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Grant from DePaul University.

“Our students have found new and creative ways to apply their theatre and storytelling skills within the parameters we are given," says John Culbert, dean for The Theatre School. “They are taking advantage of the current technology to reach audiences beyond our typical scope. I am very proud, but not surprised, that they are finding ways to have an impact, even in the midst of the pandemic."

For information about The Theatre's Schools productions, visit the On Stage/Online website.