Actress Kathleen Wise talks about her acting background, her love for The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and all things The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
St Louis Limelight Magazine: How long have you been acting?
Kathleen Wise: I did school plays in middle school and high school, and I got really into it then. I went to college to study other things. I went to Sarah Lawrence college; a liberal arts school. I was doing a lot of French, dance, and writing; and then circled back to Theatre by the end of college.
STLLM: What brought you to St. Louis?
KW: This is my second time performing at The Rep! I was here two years ago; I did The Winslow Boy. I love working at The Rep. I auditioned in New York. So many actors are based in New York, and regional theaters have their auditions there…When I found out they were doing Curious Incident, I asked if they would bring me in for the role of “Siohban”, because I had seen it (the show) on Broadway. When I got the part, I was so excited! …It’s like a family. Emilee (Bucheit), our stage manager, was the same stage manager for The Winslow Boy. It was wonderful.
STLLM: This show is based on a novel by Mark Haddon. Had you read the novel?
KW: I had, yeah! I read it a couple of years ago, and then I re-read it before rehearsals started.
STLLM: You play “Siohban” in the show. What attracted you to the character?
KW: I read for the mother, Judy, as well, actually. But Siohban is such a caretaker…She’s almost the voice for him (Christopher Boone). It’s fun to be helping to tell the story.
STLLM: Your character takes on a lot of narration in the story. What is that experience like for you?
KW: It was a lot of talking. I’d come home from rehearsal and my mouth would hurt from talking so much. At the same time, last year I did a one-woman show in Cincinnati called Grounded, by George Grant; about a fighter pilot. In that play, it was an 80-minute monologue of just me…this was easier…but it was very specific about the timing, so there’s very little wiggle room.
STLLM: The movement on the stage seems very physically challenging for all of the actors. You all sort of become the set. How challenging was it for you all in rehearsals?
KW: …The ensemble’s job is 10 times harder than mine. They are like ninjas! They’re constantly moving…I applaud them…If something goes wrong, there’s this domino effect…and then, they’re playing all these different characters, and changing (costumes), and (learning) accents.
STLLM: “Christopher Boone” is not an average teen boy. Although never stated outright, it is assumed that he is autistic. What did you and your castmates learn or research to prepare for your interactions with a character like that?
KW: I have a feeling that Nick (LaMedica; who plays “Christopher”), did a lot more research…We also had faculty members from Great Circle, a school for autistic kids here in St. Louis, come and talk to us. And Nick and I went and observed the kids and the teachers, which was so invaluable. It was really generous of them to let us observe. It’s important to note that they (author Mark Haddon and playwright Simon Stephens), never mention that he (“Christopher”) is autistic or has Asbergers. They never use that label. It caused a lot of controversy; a lot of people who dealt with or had a relationship with someone on the spectrum (of autism) had a lot of issues with the book. …Every individual is so different. This is Christopher’s story, and whatever label you want to put on him…it’s about one boy’s journey.
STLLM: What has been an unexpected challenge for you in this role?
KW: …Nick came in so prepared, and his work is so beautiful. It made my job easy.
STLLM: Your character, Siohban, is one of Christopher’s teachers, but she appears to be closer with him than others are. Would you agree, and why?
KW: Yes…I think he has a very close bond with her…Teachers who work with autistic kids have a very fierce bond with them.
STLLM: What would you tell someone who is coming to this show as a fan of the novel, or of previous stagings?
KW: The London and Broadway productions had huge budgets and flashy lighting that made it really spectacular. But ours is…making use of all these very simple props. …I think, come in with an open mind…about using the actors more. It’s much more low-tech.
STLLM: What would you tell someone who is coming to this show that is not familiar with the book or previous stagings?
KW: I think, come in with an open mind about this being one boy’s story about curiosity and family. It’s very much a “family story”. …In a sense, it’s more of a personal story about a boy, told in his own words. …It’s so much about how a boy can be so misunderstood, whether or not he is on the spectrum. He’s so misunderstood by parents, and trying to find the truth. Trying to understand the world, in so many ways.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is running now through October 1st every night, excluding Mondays. Tickets can be purchased by CLICKING HERE.
Feature Image: TUESDAY, SEPT. 5, 2017 -The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Loretto-Hilton Center.