Cloverdale’s Linda McRae is currently directing a play that was two years in the making.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is running at the White Rock Players theatre until Feb. 19. The play is about a boy with autism who attempts to solve the mystery of a murdered dog.
“This story is precious to me because I’ve been a caregiver with people on the spectrum and I have a grandson who is on the spectrum,” said McRae. “I’ve seen first hand the challenges that families face, but also the delightful joys.”
McRae said the story isn’t so much about autism, but about how someone with autism sees the world.
“It’s a coming of age story of a 15-year-old boy. I believe this story will help people understand a little better what it means to be on the autistic spectrum and develop a little more compassion and patience.”
White Rock Players asked McRae to direct Curious Incident in the summer of 2019. McRae, who’s been teaching drama for 26 years, had no idea the play was about a kid with autism when she said ‘yes.’ But as she started reading the script, she got excited. McRae teaches drama to kids and that includes kids with developmental disabilities.
“It was quite surprising,” she said. “Especially because White Rock Players had no idea about my teaching, but it just felt like the right fit.”
McRae had never directed for White Rock Players before, but was quite involved with Surrey Little Theatre having moved to Cloverdale from Chilliwack in 2008.
When Surrey Little Theatre was still operating out of their building in Clayton Heights, McRae was teaching some theatre programs there and directing Christmas shows.
As for Curious Incident, rehearsals were moving along smoothly until the middle of March 2020.
“The president of the theatre company walked in one day and said, ‘This rehearsal is illegal,’” she said with a laugh. “So, we got shut down, and a few false starts in between, but this play has been a long time coming and we’re very excited that we’re finally getting to perform it.”
McRae said the play is not something one would usually see at a local theatre. She’s using minimal set design with a lot of special effects. And the play has 58 scenes.
“There are very few theatres around that could put this performance on because of the lighting and special effects,” said Tom Taylor, formerly of Surrey Little Theatre.
Taylor said he’s proud of McRae and what she does for the community in both directing local theatre and in teaching drama to young people.
“She has a stick-with-it-ness that a lot of people don’t have. Many would have walked away. But she’s put together a wonderful play.”
Taylor said he knows the adversity McRae’s faced trying to put the play on for the past two years. Part of that was replacing half the cast.
“I’ve never seen a director put as much time and dedication, in so many different facets, as Linda has for this play. I think she needs to be recognized.”
When The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time wraps next week McRae will once again be teaching.
In Chilliwack, she teaches drama classes at Greendale Community School on Tuesdays as well as two classes for adults with developmental disabilities on Thursdays. Greendale classes begin in April.
In Langley, McRae teaches at the new Langley Little Theatre (now that Surrey Little Theatre amalgamated with Langley Players). “Classes that were once held in Cloverdale are now moved to Langley,” she said.
Langley Little Theatre will be holding two weeks of Spring Drama Camps from March 14 to March 25. In week one, McRae will teach “Theatre Peeps” (ages 6 to 11). “Adventures in stagecraft doing role play, improv, mime, crafts, music and movement,” she explained. “Children will build creativity, self esteem, confidence and teamwork in a safe environment.”
In week two, McRae will teach a class called “Scared Scriptless” (ages 12 and up). McRae said teens will “learn to express freely and creatively while they build confidence and self esteem.”
For more info on classes in Chilliwack at Greendale, email: email@example.com; for more info on classes at Langley Little Theatre, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.