By Simon Stephens | Based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a play by Simon Stephens based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon, referencing a Sherlock Holmes’ short story. It opened in 2014, and won the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, 2015 Outer Critics’ Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Play, the 2015 Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play, and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favorite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows is a funny, poignant and fascinating portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.
This simple story of Christopher Boone and his quest to find the killer of the dog Wellington, who lives next door plunges the audience into the mind of Christopher himself. Christopher is a mystery himself. He struggles with the human touch and sound but is a math’s genius, knows complex physics and all about the stars and the universe. He catalogs and really sees the details in everything around him.
He is quite brilliant. As a neuro divergent individual Christopher stands out among neurotypical people. Neurodivergent is used to describe anyone who has a brain that develops atypically, whether they are autistic, hyperlexic, dyslexic, or have some other type of neurodivergence such as ADHD, Tourette's, or intellectual disabilities.
However, this story at its heart is about understanding, forgiveness and acceptance of the differences that make us who we are. Christopher’s story is funny, charming, heartbreaking, and celebratory. I would like the audience to leave the theatre with questions. As a teacher I hope some of the questions will be about how we treat those who are neurodivergent. How and why do we stifle their creativity or learning styles in our educational system? How can we serve these students better? Where can we find genius today? Who else in our history achieved greatness and was neurodivergent? Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Alan Turin, Billie Eilish, Emma Watson, Simone Biles, Henry Ford and many more have come forward to share their struggles with ADHD, Tourette’s, Autism. My wish for you is the same as Christopher’s, anything is possible. Now go do it!
Current Covid Policies
- All cast and staff are required to be fully vaccinated.
- Masks are required for all audience members, for all performances. No exceptions.
Meet the Cast & Crew
Click on the staff and cast profiles below for bio and show history.
Thank you so much to our supporters and volunteers!
- ISU School of Theatre and Dance
- Christina Dean
- Rich Tinaglia
- Dave Krostal
- Rich Plotkin
- Jacque and Jim Bethmann
Dramaturgy Note by Samuel Langellier
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon's novel of the same name, is one of theater’s notably prolific examples of having a main character being presented as neurodiverse, and more specifically as being on the autism spectrum. While the play doesn’t put it into direct words, it's readily apparent from Christopher’s responses to other characters and the efforts of the text to portray his inner world that he doesn’t readily inhabit the same mental position as neurotypical individuals. While author Mark Haddon didn’t label Christopher within his novel, in a 2006 interview on NPR he stated that within his own thinking Christopher would be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which is often typified as intellectually successful but greatly lacking social skills.
Autism has come to be recognized as having diverse markers that reflect differently across every individual diagnosed, and as such is called Autism Spectrum Disorder. Asperger’s Syndrome is often treated somewhat differently, due to assumptions of intellectual development and the unfortunate use of the term functioning, but is essentially just a specific subset of characteristics of some individuals on the autism spectrum. Diagnosis at an early age can come from outside recognition that an individual doesn’t function according to typical standards. But standards have been set largely by a white capitalist patriarchal society in the US, meaning that the standards are often viewed through the lens of what is supposed to be typical for white children, and specifically white boys. Girls and Women on the spectrum are less likely to receive a diagnosis without putting in the personal effort to find treatment for themselves. Black, Indiginous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have an even greater hurdle to deal with in getting positive resources and recognition across both the autism spectrum as well as other forms of neurodivergence. Moreover, function and functioning is so termed on the basis of capitalism and the production that can be extracted from the individual, which is by no means a humane way of judging intrinsic worth or value, words that themselves have become too tied up in matters of profit.
Bloomington Normal fortunately has a number of local organisations working for the benefit of those on the spectrum, including Marcfirst, The Autism Society of Mclean County, and The Autism Place at ISU. This area fortunately benefits from ISU’s origination as a “Normal” or teaching college. Together these organizations help provide for the autism community by tapping into national as well as community level resources and interest. The Autism Society of Mclean has notably built up the Autism Friendly Community outreach program that has developed six aspirations for building and enriching the community. These aspirations include having a clear sense of being welcome, a place in education, housing opportunities, healthcare and wellness opportunities, employment opportunities, and opportunities for recreation. Developing these aspirations is a meaningful way forward for centering autistic individuals of all ages and giving them the public space and respect that they deserve. It’s more important than ever before to allow these diverse individuals their time to thrive and to give room to center their stories.