Storytelling school

Home Made’s ‘Curious Incident’ Has Less Bling, More Storytelling

With a production full of pulsating sounds, flashing lights and unusual choreography, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” took the theater world by storm some eight years ago. After the play’s successful debut in London’s West End, the Broadway production opened in October 2014. It ran for 23 months and won Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Play. A tour version of the same highly sensory production was on the road for a full year, which included five performances at Proctors in 2016.

Leaving aside all the bling that American audiences took in, “The Curious Incident” is a powerful and gripping story in its own right, and Home Made Theater is going to tell that story with fewer special effects and more emphasis on the performers. , especially frontman Christopher Buettner. The company’s new production runs Friday, April 29 through Sunday, May 9 at Saratoga Arts’ Dee Sarno Theater. This will be the play’s debut at the local regional theatre, an important accolade for the 37-year-old troupe.

“Curious Incident” is based on the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon adapted by Simon Stephens. It’s about a boy and a dog, even though it’s a dead dog. Christopher is a 15-year-old math genius with pronounced social anxiety and little life experience beyond the alley where he lives with his father. The character is usually assumed to be autistic. He discovers that the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, was killed with a pitchfork. Inspired by the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, he sets out to be a detective and solve the case of Wellington’s grisly murder. His investigation reveals more than expected and ultimately opens up his life to harsh realities and new possibilities.

“It’s a great play and a great story,” says Eric Rudy, the company’s general manager, who also plays Christopher’s father. “You learn a lot about yourself, the consequences of truth and lies, and that your impact on the world is bigger than you think.”

Erin Nicole Harrington is directing the show, which will be performed in the round, as it was the very first production at the Royal National Theater in 2012 before the property became commercially significant. In keeping with the British setting, the local actors will use British accents, and in preparation they worked extensively with a dialect coach.

Home Made originally planned the show for Spring 2020 and had already named the cast when the big COVID shutdown hit. Two-thirds of the nine cast members were able to participate in this go-around. “They’ve been marinating in their parts for three years now,” says Rudy.

The lead role is 16-year-old Christopher Buettner, who lives in Gansevoort and attends Schuylerville High School. He already has an impressive acting resume that includes singing and dancing lessons, as well as an appearance on Proctors’ “Rent.” In preparation for his audition, “before” as he puts it, Buettner read the best-selling book and watched the Royal National production.

“It’s the most difficult and involved role I’ve ever played. He’s so creative and interesting and smart and his lines make me laugh, but they make sense,” Buettner says. “Christopher often doesn’t know not how to put things into words. He sees and knows everything, but when something new happens, he has to piece it together and make sense of it in his own way.

Long before “Curious Incident” was even announced, Buettner was working with students with special needs at his school. He found it rewarding and the experience came in handy for the role. “I help teach students with autism how to learn music and incorporate little bits of it into my portrayal,” he says.

“Curious Incident” is the fourth production since Home Made began performing at the Arts Center in downtown Saratoga Springs. The Spa Little Theater, adjacent to SPAC in Saratoga Spa State Park, had long been the company’s home, not only for public performances, but also for its administrative offices and storage of props, sets, costumes, etc.

According to Rudy, COVID has prompted the administration team of three full-time and two part-time employees to operate from their home office and that pattern will continue. Regarding storage at the Spa Little Theatre, Rudy says, “Storage, stage stores and washrooms were deteriorating and we were losing prop and costume stock due to humidity issues.” The company’s inventory is now housed in a 5,600 square foot space in the Wilton Mall.

Home Made isn’t the only institution to stop using the 500-seat Little Theater, which dates to the 1930s and is state-owned. Opera Saratoga performed in outdoor venues last summer and is returning to the SPAC Amphitheater for two nights of “Sweeney Todd” and heading to The Egg and Proctors for other events. When the opera announced its 2022 season earlier this year, director Lawrence Edelson explained in a statement that the company’s expansion into new venues across the region was, in part, “catalyzed by the need renovations to the Spa Little Theatre, where we have been playing since 1998.” Another regular summer in theater was SPAC’s presentation of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which will perform again this year in a greenhouse at Pitney Meadows Community Farm.

Wholesale renovations or upgrades to the small theater aren’t coming anytime soon. In a recent phone interview, Alane Ball Chinian, Regional Director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, acknowledged that this is an aging facility that needs of some improvements, but that it was “usable” and she anticipated that PSPC, which rents for the summer, I would use it at some point this season. She also said that while the theater and opera companies were out of the facility, the state was beginning to make modest improvements to the restrooms.


“Soon we will enter a planning phase,” Chinian said, “to come up with a comprehensive plan to overhaul the theater to make it useful for year-round multiple arts programming.” She added that it would be an “open process” and that contributions from constituent societies would be welcome.

In the meantime, Home Made Theater has another production, Jason Robert Brown’s musical “The Last Five Years,” scheduled for June 3-12 at the Arts Center, where audience capacity is just 20% of that which was available at the Little Theatre. The troupe, which relies on earned income for about half of its operating budget, seems willing to return to the larger venue for performances, hoping to see momentous improvements. Rudy says: “We had a good relationship with Parks and we were never asked to leave. We had no idea what it would be like if we were the only ones there. We would like to go back.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night”

When: Opens April 29 and continues for eight more performances until May 8.

Where: Dee Sarno Theater at Saratoga Arts, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Tickets: $30. Call (518) 587-4427 or visit: homemadetheater.org.

Note: The performance at 7:30 p.m. on May 4 will have reduced sound and lighting effects to better serve those who may be affected by such effects.


joseph Dalton is a freelance writer based in Troy.