Illinois Theatre's new play focuses on teen who 'sees the world in an astounding way'

Illinois Theatre's new play focuses on teen who 'sees the world in an astounding way'

URBANA — An award-winning, unique novel comes in play form to Illinois Theatre tonight.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," by Simon Stephens, is adapted from Mark Haddon's award-winning novel of the same name.

It is about Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old on the autism spectrum, as he explores the meanings of family and forgiveness while investigating the death of his neighbor's dog.

In director Latrelle Bright's words, Christopher "sees the world in an astounding way and communicates clearly and honestly."

"Our Christopher is played by Leojaé Payton, a sophomore in the acting program in the Department of Theatre," Bright said. "He has focus like nobody's business."

"He cannot tell a lie. How this plays out in the story is more in other character's reactions to him and that's where both the humor and conflict lies. Imagine encountering a person who will not lie to you ... not to save your feelings nor even to save himself," the director said.

Led by Bright, a Theatre Studies lecturer and professional director, with assistance from acting faculty members Allison Moody (voice), Genesee Spridco (movement) and Zev Steinrock (stage combat), "Curious Incident" is told through Christopher's eyes.

"I can't say I have any vast insight into how the young mind works because people are so varied in nature, temperament and ability," Bright said. "I would say that we have to remember that in addition to his place on the spectrum, Christopher is a teenage boy dealing with the same raging hormones and moodiness of any 15-year old biologically and developmentally. The company has worked with The Autism Project to tell this story in a way that is truthful to families who experience life on and with autism spectrum disorder."

A sensory-friendly performance of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" will take place at 1 p.m. March 9.

For the first time, Illinois Theatre will offer a sensory-friendly performance for adult and young adult audience members (and their families) who are on the autism spectrum or who otherwise need a less intense sensory experience.

In addition to modifications of the lighting, sound, and media designs, audiences are invited to bring comfort items (fidget toys, blankets, for example) with them and to utilize a "safe space" area outside of the theatre as needed. A live video feed of the performance will be available.

Tickets are $10 and are available through the Krannert Center Ticket Office, at 217-333-6280.

If you go

What: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"

Where: Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight-Saturday and March 7-9; 3 p.m. March 10

Tickets: $10 to $25

Box office: 217-333-6280