SPRINGFIELD, NJ — The rain may have been pouring down outside, but for the group of about a dozen or so Jonathan Dayton students, the confines of the Halsey Hall Auditorium at Jonathan Dayton High School were a world away, in Wiltshire, England.
The cast was rehearsing blocking for "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," a play adapted from the book of the same name. In its original run on Broadway, "Curious Incident" took home the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.
The story follows Christopher, a neurodivergent child living in England. After his neighbor's dog Wellington is murdered, he sets off on a journey to find out who killed him, which leads him on a path of personal discovery.
While it is not specified in the book or the play, it is implied that Christopher has Asperger's, high-functioning autism, or a similar disorder. That is something junior Sarah Zarember has to take into account.
Zarember is playing the role of Christopher, and spoke about what she sees is the biggest part of bringing the role to life.
"For me, it's just making sure that I'm adapting my everyday movements to make sure that they're not overly noticeable, but something subtle enough that it's easy for the audience to pick up while being respectful to people that I know that are on the spectrum.
"I definitely want to make sure that I'm giving an honest portrayal that will make as many people as happy as possible, so hopefully I do a good job with that."
Another challenge for the cast is the relatively Spartan set. Outside of a few props and Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling, the majority of the storytelling will come directly from the actors themselves.
For senior Jonah Glass, who plays Christopher's father Ed, the lack of props will be a challenge, but not the most challenging situation the actors have had to overcome in regard to their set.
"I think it was two years ago during "Superior Donuts" when we didn't even have a stage to work on," Glass said. "So this is by far not the hardest thing that the actors have ever done."
Director and Jonathan Dayton English teacher Anthony DeNicolo will be in his 12th year of directing the fall drama when "Curious Incident" premiers next month. Without any hesitation, DeNicolo said that this is the biggest leap he feels that he has had any cast undertake with the fall drama.
"Last year we really got to put our upgrades in the auditorium to use," he said, referencing the 2018 production of "Midsummer Night's Dream," which earned the drama department its first-ever Foxy Award. "I feel really happy about the [creative] direction we're moving."
As DeNicolo explained, most of the rehearsals have become what he has deemed "movement rehearsals", in which the actors learn to pantomime, lifting of fellow actors and even some stage combat.
"So there are a lot of new challenges that are presented to us this year," DeNicolo said. "But the actors do have some space to work with, which is always fun. We'll also be using some new technology...so lots of really exciting new stuff that we can work with."
Tickets are now available on line for both the Nov. 15 and 16 performances at the following link: https://jdhscuriousincident.brownpapertickets.com/.
The price is eight dollars for students and seniors, and 10 dollars for adults. Tickets will also be available at the door for both shows on a first-come-first-serve basis.