An Olivier- and Tony-Award-winning play opened Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., as Ohio State’s Department of Theatre premiered its performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” created by Simon Stephens.
Based on the book by Mark Haddon, the play tells the story of mathematical genius and amateur detective Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who works to solve the mysterious death of a neighborhood dog. Though not explicitly stated, Boone appears to have an unspecified autism disorder that often causes stress and discomfort throughout his quest.
Kevin McClatchy, director of the production and associate professor in the Department of Theatre, also directs Ohio State’s Shakespeare and Autism Project, which is a collaborative research effort between the Wexner Medical Center’s Nisonger Center and the Department of Theatre.
The project aims to improve the communication skills of children with autism through drama games based on the texts of William Shakespeare.
Not only does McClatchy’s relationship with the autism community help drive the direction of the main character, but he said it also was one of the many reasons the Department of Theatre chose this play.
McClatchy said the play asks the audience to experience the world the way Christopher does in hopes of becoming more empathetic toward those who see and process life differently than they do.
Connor Graham, a master’s student in theater and lead role in the play, described his character as an “intellectually intelligent” person who often struggles with interpersonal communication and anxiety.
Graham said he prepared for his role by conducting research online and reading different books about autism. He said he took a physical approach to portraying his character by studying and implementing stimming behavior — the repetition of sounds, movements or words — which is a common symptom of autism.
“It takes a lot of people to pull together a character like Christopher,” Graham said.
Portraying a character like Christopher in an accurate, respectful and nonstereotypical way challenged and required the entire production team, Graham said.
“We sort of hit the ground running with the notion that autism doesn’t have to be one specific thing,” Graham said.
Aside from the entertainment aspect, Graham said the show acts as a tool audience members can use to further educate themselves about the developmental disability.
“You’ll learn a lot on autism or what it could possibly look like and how to interact with people with autism,” Graham said.
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” will run through April 20 at the Drake Performance Center’s Roy Bowen Theatre. Tickets cost $15 for students and children; $18 for faculty, senior citizens and alumni; and $20 for the general public and can be purchased by calling 614-292-2295 or going to the Drake’s box office.