Duluth East Students Use Theatre to Tell Story About Student with Autism
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" will run at Duluth East High School May 2-4
DULUTH, Minn.- Students in the theatre department at Duluth East High School are preparing to put on one of their most challenging shows yet.
Often times, art says the things that are too difficult to put into words. It’s message is heavy, but the story of the Tony Award winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is one these teens had to tell.
“He comes upon many troubles and he goes to find his mom and it’s just a really heart–warming story about this kid named Christopher,” senior Nick VanLoh, who plays character Christopher Boone, said.
In his time at Duluth East, VanLoh performed in over a dozen shows.
“It’s pretty different to play than any given role that may be in a musical or something like that, but I’d say it’s more fun because it’s more of a challenge,” VanLoh said.
Christopher Boone is the main character in the book–based English play.
“He is a 15 year, three month old and three day old kid with autism, but on the high functioning end,” VanLoh said.
Christopher faces challenges like any other teen, and he has autism.
“We want to make sure that we’re sensitive and that we’re not making Christopher, the main character, into some sort of caricature,” co-director Greg Jones said.
This was a challenge co–directors Jones and Peter Froelingsdorf wanted their students to take on.
“We like an element of education with some of the shows,” Jones said.
But not without teaching the students what it’s like to have high–functioning autism.
“We went over to Odean East and we sat in on the special–ed classroom for a couple hours and we asked them questions, we asked them about the play, we asked them how they would compare themselves to Christopher,” VanLoh said.
Nick met Tyler, a student similar to Christopher, who became the inspiration for his character.
“We asked him and he thought it was fine that somebody without autism was playing a character with autism. He thought that it was good that we were bringing awareness to it and he wanted to come see the play himself,” VanLoh said.
For Nick and other students in the play, the challenge isn’t that the main character has autism, it’s showing audiences that kids with autism really aren’t that different from kids without it.
“I think that they’ll learn a little bit about the autism spectrum, but they’ll also get to see things that they’re really familiar with like family struggles and just figuring out how to reconcile yourself to a change in situation like our main character does,” Jones said.
Curtain goes up May 2nd. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time will run for three nights at Duluth East High School.