Bernards theater department hosts important workshop


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Photo of the new American Thanksgiving that strips the holiday of its authentic meaning

Meghan Shelley, Editor-In-Chief

Running from November 18-20th, Bernards High School Theater will perform The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a play adapted from the novel originally written by Mark Haddon. The story follows Christopher, a young boy who is heavily implied to be autistic, as he navigates the mystery surrounding the death of a neighbor’s dog.

The play handles a multitude of serious topics, particularly surrounding the topic of disability and ableism. For this reason, there has been concern throughout the community that this play may not be the most appropriate choice, if handled incorrectly. Despite being a relatively controversial pick, the Bernards theater department has taken great strides to ensure the sensitive material is handled maturely, empathetically, and most importantly; with accuracy.

In the weeks prior to the commencement of the show, students involved in the show attended a workshop run by Ms. Hart, who runs life skills programs for STARS students, and Ms. Lavalle, a school psychologist.

The workshop gave students the opportunity to learn more about ASD, (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and provide them with the resources and knowledge necessary to deliver the best, most accurate, performance.

Students received a flier upon arrival containing information about ASD, and were then able to watch an interview by graduated STARRS student Martha Gilbert, who shared some of her personal experiences, as well as what she would want students to know about ASD.

Students were given the opportunity to voice their observations, questions, and concerns they might have related to the representation of ASD in media via a google form that had been sent out prior to the information session. Ms Hart and Ms Lavalle each tackled the concerns shared by students, providing them with insight to authentically portray the autistic experience.

Ms Hart states, “being open minded, flexible, and empathetic is key.” And reminded students, “we would never want to tokenize someone or put them on a pedestal for having a disability” and, “we want to embed nuerodiversity into societal norms…you all are going to change the community by showing this performance.”


Ms Lavelle added, “The most important thing is to educate yourselves…there aren’t straightforward answers for a lot of this stuff…My advice would be, be mindful of the things that you’re doing.”

While it is understandable that a play handling such sensitive matters might be regarded as controversial, the strides taken by the Bernards theater department illustrate the immense care taken to handle these subjects with sensitivity and empathy.

Mr. Harvey, the play’s director, says it best, “I chose this play, because I watch a community in this school that doesn’t have a voice. I make art to have conversations with the world. We are an educational institutional, and our job is to always educate and question.”

While the choice for this year’s play has certainly generated controversy, and stands out for its sensitive subject matter, it is clear that those responsible for delivering the performance have taken into consideration the delicate factors surrounding portraying an authentic experience of a person with ASD in an inoffensive and accurate manner.