A Triumph of “Curious”ity
Theatre students put on spring play from home

ome historical references place the first use of the expression “the show must go on” back in the 1800s, when circus performers continued their acts regardless of tigers on the loose or falls from the trapeze. The phrase has been repeated throughout the years to describe just about any activity that refuses to be deterred by circumstances. So it was only fitting that theatre and dance professor David Kaye and his students would apply the thinking to their production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which premiered via Zoom April 16, 17 and 18.

Theatre students put on a play from home
The original intent, of course, was to perform the play in person, in UNH’s Johnson Theatre. Students — including three seniors — were cast last November. Production was slated to start after spring break. And then, COVID-19 hit. A videoconference with cast and crew ended with the decision to get rid of the “would haves” and move forward with a virtual performance, adapted to reflect the challenges and realities of remote production. The show — renamed “The Curious Incident of a Curious Incident: A Pandemic Meta-Play” — indeed went on.

Kaye has been using Zoom for about two years to hire and rehearse actors around the country for UNH Power Play, the department of theatre and dance’s professional applied theatre company. He’s also used Zoom for other projects. “But this went way beyond that,” he says. “The students and I pretty much made this up as we went along.”

A dozen students participated in the production from their homes. One student served as the stage manager, handling sound. Kaye ran other technical elements from his computer. Actors improvised with flashlights, clip lights, reading lights and more, found costumes from their closets and made needed props — whatever they could get their hands on.

“I think we all realized what a powerful experience this was, on many fronts,” says Kaye. “It was a test of our creativity, but it was also an outlet for us to share what we were all going through. In the end, we were able to open that circle to include the 130 audience members who attended each performance. This was a project I don’t think any of us will ever forget.”

In the event they do, they’ll get another shot at it: at the end of each performance, Kaye shared with audience members that the theatre department will put on the original production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” on campus next spring.

— Jody Record ’95