Stimulus Underload

The University’s production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is devoting one night’s performance for audience members on the autistic spectrum.

As such, this 2015 Tony Award-winning play will on Wednesday, Feb 26 be staged with a mellowing-out of otherwise drastic sound and lighting effects, as well as other content that could otherwise make those with autism uncomfortable.

A Feb. 26 performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” will be staged for audience members on the autistic spectrum.

The story, adapted from a novel by Mark Haddon, revolves around a 15-year-old autistic boy who is trying to piece together the circumstances that led to the death of a dog he’s suspected of killing. To give audience members unfamiliar with autism an idea of how it affects some, the show contains moments of thunderous sounds, flashing light and other jolting moments that will be modified for the special performance.

“There are elements in the script where the intention of the playwright is to over-stimulate an audience, so that they can understand what a sensory-aware person would feel,” Hustoles said. Not only will such moments be toned down for the evening, the theater environment will be noticeably different in hopes of making audience members comfortable.

“We’re going to keep our house lights up,” Hustoles said, “if not full, at least on.”

The cast, he said, is prepared for an atypical audience.

“We’re expecting the audience to get up and walk out of the theater and walk back in a way audiences wouldn’t ordinarily do,” Hustoles said. “We’re expecting the audience to be vocally participatory in a way that normally audiences wouldn’t do.”

The idea to do what’s termed a sensory-friendly show came about once the show was selected for the theater season. Several students in the theater program who are on the autistic spectrum suggested staging such a performance.

Hustoles said the show is still effective minus the jarring effects.

“Our hope is that any chaperones or parents who join us for the audience, they’ll hear the same words, they’ll see the same show,” Hustoles said. “Except they’re going to see what I see in a technical rehearsal or in a run-through  … There’s nothing spectacular or shocking. They’re going to get the complete show but not quite the sensory overload that our regular audience would.”

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“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” runs Feb. 20-22 and Feb. 27-29 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 29 and March 1 at 2 p.m. in the Ted Paul Theatre.

Tickets are $16 regular; $14 for seniors ages 65 and older, children under 16 and groups of 15 or more; and $11 for MSU students. The Box Office is open 4-6 p.m. weekdays in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center. Single tickets can be purchased at MSUTheatre.com. Call the Box Office at 507-389-6661.