Transported: An Evening at the Theatre
Spotlight on theatre and perspective
Guest Contributor: Megan Bengur
There is something that transports me when the house lights darken in a theater. It may be the kinetic energy of so many people gathered in one place. It may be the anticipation of the journey on stage that is, at that moment, an unknown entity – something that did not exist a moment ago and something that will not exist after the house lights come back up and we all go home. When I took my seat for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea that the journey awaiting me would open me up to another world – a world probably most familiar to those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The first moment of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is truly transformative. It alerts you that the world you live in, that world outside of this theater, is not the one that you will be inhabiting for the next two hours and forty-five minutes. This is not about you, your worries, your day to day life – this is about Christopher. This is his story and we’re all just lucky enough to see the world through his lens. And if we’re really lucky, we may catch glimpses of ourselves in his story.
Every element of the production crafts Christopher’s world. From the lighting, to the other actors on stage, they are all moving parts - working together to build a complex world. If we allow ourselves, we can dive into that world, hear it, see it, feel it in every cell. Everything can seem a little too bright, a little too chaotic and a little too much. Christopher’s world can be overwhelming – so much so that, sometimes, the only way he can gain a little peace is by placing a sleeping bag over his head and blocking it all out.
It can be difficult to fathom what it is like to experience the world with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. So often, we want to fix people, change them, make them whole. We want them to see the world the way we do. Of course, this belief assumes that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder(or any other mental health issue or difference) need fixing. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime makes the case that Christopher is like the rest of us: flawed, human and amazing – these qualities just manifest in ways that don’t conform to our common understanding. The play doesn’t try to fix Christopher. In fact, it argues that there is nothing in Christopher to fix. We see Christopher for all his joy, sorrow, confusion and intelligence. The only difference between any of us is how we communicate. Make sure to stay after actors take their bows – I cannot properly articulate the pure joy of those last moments.
After seeing a show like this, I can’t help but think that the world could be a better place if we all took the time to really listen and experience other people’s stories. The theater is one of the few places that has the power to transport us – to see the world from a different angle, where anything can happen and we’re all in it together.
Curious to see it yourself? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is currently touring the United States. You can find dates and times here. It’s also playing in London and The National Theatre records some of their shows and broadcasts them in movie theaters around the world. There may be encore screenings of The Curious Incident – you can get updates here. And If it’s not coming to a theater near you, you can always pick up the book by Mark Haddon.