Updated: Oct 10
Discovering We Are More Than The Labels Society Puts On Us
By Shannon Cudd Christopher Francis Boone, the central character of the play The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, is neurodivergent but the playwright, Simon Stephens, never expressly states this fact. It is also not mentioned in the source material book of the same name by Mark Haddon. Darryl B. Hovis, the director of Chance Theater’s new production goes as far as to say this is not a story about autism or even about Christopher himself. Wait! We are getting ahead of ourselves and Christopher – who loves order – would hate that.
Curious Incident (the book) was first published in 2003 and quickly became a big hit among readers. Some of its many accolades include the Whitbread Book Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book, and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. The play came about almost ten years later premiering on August 2, 2012 at the National Theatre in London.
Two years later it would travel across the pond to premiere on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on October 5, 2014. It was there that both Hovis and Casey Long (a Chance Theater founding artist and the actor portraying Ed Boone) became enamored and inspired by the play. Long saw it twice on Broadway, something he has never done before. When the Chance added it to their season, he just had to audition. For his part, Hovis added the play to his directing wish list, something he is so excited to be crossing off now. Hovis first approaches his directing projects visually. He was inspired by the work of Spanish artist Gerardo Rueda and his use of shapes and colors to make order out of life’s chaos. Hovis and scenic designer Bruce Goodrich used this as a starting point. Hovis also relishes the rehearsal process. He loves physically exploring the text with his actors and collaborating on movement and stage pictures. Curious Incident is an excellent vehicle for this kind of work because the ensemble members play multiple roles and quickly create the numerous locations. There is also a play within a play element to dive into. Long has enjoyed building his onstage relationship with Aaron Lipp, the actor playing Chrisopther, during rehearsals as well. The play’s action begins in Swindon, England when Christopher makes a ghastly neighborhood discovery. Mrs. Shears’ dog Wellington has been speared with a garden fork and killed. He vows to get to the bottom of it even when his father Ed orders him to let it go. Long calls Chrisopher’s morals “inconvenient” for Ed. Christopher refuses to drop it and, as a result, goes on a journey much grander than solving a neighborhood mystery. There’s no doubt Ed loves his son but as a blue collar single father he isn’t trained or prepared for parenthood, let alone parenthood of a brilliant yet often difficult son. Long believes it is isolating for Ed to live with the fact that “the most important person in the world to you is also the most challenging person for you to deal with.” Regardless of this, “Ed never stops trying.” He is “a beautiful soul that has his own demons.” Christopher craves order. When Long was asked if he creates this in his own life he joked: “I will let you know when I figure that out.” Hovis answered similarly.
According to Hovis and Long, this story is partially about how quickly society labels someone. It is so much easier to categorize another human and move on than truly taking the time to understand someone that is different. Life is messy, people are complicated and even parents can make huge mistakes. Curious Incident is also a story about no matter what perceived limitations or roadblocks life throws at a person, we all possess the ability to turn those into superpowers. The Chance is using the power of theater to partner with community organizations such as Autism by the Sea, Autism Peer 1-on-1, My Day Counts, OC Asperger’s Support Group, Poppy Life Care, and Reimagine to bring awareness to the beauties of neurodiversity. They will be hosting a Neurodiverse Community Night on October 13 which includes a relaxed atmosphere performance making theater accessible to all. Beyond this production, Long stated that their “Summer Speak Up program (which includes ‘Spectrum Speak Up’ for teens on the Autism Spectrum) is about giving a voice to those who do not usually get to stand in the spotlight. While there is not a direct connection between Speak Up and Curious Incident, the mission is the same.” This is a story about the power of community coming together to support one of its fellow humans on their journey. When you do the maths (that’s what it’s called in England), that’s the heart of what life is really about after all.
Shannon Cudd is a writer, actor, and theater lover in Orange County, California.
“The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time” Chance Theater
@ Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center
5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, CA
September 22, 2023 — October 22, 2023
(888) 455-4212, www.chancetheater.com