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A sad farewell to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”

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Cast of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" winning national awards. Photo by Cuesta College Marketing

The wildly successful run of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” has come to a poignant end.

The ensemble amassed a whopping 11 national awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in February 2022. The cast and crew finally earned some long-overdue recognition.

The national awards include: 

  • The Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Award
  • Distinguished Production of a Play
  • Distinguished Director of a Play – bree valle
  • Outstanding Performance by an Actor – Dylan Hahn
  • Distinguished Performance by an Actor – Jordan Michel
  • Distinguished Performance by an Actor – Harlow Winterfire
  • Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble
  • Distinguished Production Design
  • Distinguished Projection Design – Alex Woolum
  • Golden Wrench Award – Richard Jackson, Gabe Zufall
  • Performance Fellow – Dylan Hahn

The production not only garnered national recognition but also found its way into the heart of the community. Due to its popularity, the Cuesta Community Programs Organization requested it be remounted in September for the final time, offering financial compensation to the actors and crew.

“We were asked to perform in the Cal Poly PAC, on the mainstage,” Cuesta Theaters Artistic Director of Drama Programs bree valle said. “The show is designed to be pretty intimate, like you’re really close to the lead character. The PAC, because it’s such a huge venue, it wouldn’t work.

“So we chose to keep it at Cuesta,” valle continued. “We did it through community programs as an event and the students got paid.”

Community programs is a fee-based, community funded department of Cuesta College offering extracurricular activities and certification opportunities. It was a defining moment for the ensemble; however, the desire to rise to the occasion for the community raised its own set of challenges.

Before reviving the play, valle consulted with the cast and crew to discuss the requirements for remounting a production that had been on a seven month hiatus.

“The entire company said, ‘Well, we’ll do it again,” valle said. “But we have to get paid for it.’ Because some of the people had moved away.”

Many of the students had moved on with their lives, and some were maintaining two residences to be a part of this production. Consequently, this meant that the money earned was used to participate in the production.

“We had to pay for police, parking lot custodians, the use of the space, those kinds of things,” valle said. “We had to pay the staff of the box office because it had nothing to do with a class per se; it was more of an event. So the money from the tickets as well as community member donations of $25,000, made this possible.”

The community’s effort, along with the determination of the cast and valle, were other key factors that made this revival possible.

“Collectively there were some challenges, some of the cast had moved away and we all had job complications and basic life challenges,” said Harlow Winterfire, who portrayed Judy Boone in the production. “However, we are such a tight family that we all made time to honor this profound production.”

Winterfire added that a crew is only as strong as they’re leader.

“bree moves mountains to support her actors and crew,” Winterfire said. “For me it’s such an honor to work for her and Richard Jackson. When we were asked I said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”

The support from the community has been instrumental in the continued success of the production, motivating the cast to put in hard work and dedication. 

“It was a story that people needed to hear and the representation on the stage was incredibly important,” valle said. “Our lead character was neurodivergent playing a neurodivergent character.”

The play has resonated with the Cuesta community as a whole, because it tackles themes of neurodivergence, family strife and the importance of identity and curiosity in today’s world.

 “I think that was really important for the audience to see that,” valle said. “Especially for family members – sisters, brothers, aunts, cousins, mothers, fathers – of people that are neurodivergent. I think that’s really important and I think that the quality of the show was very, very high, and very professional.”

The production will be greatly missed, and unforgettable for the future of the Cuesta theater department. The cast bid farewell with mixed emotions. Winterfire expressed gratitude, saying a final thank you.

“Thank you for the patronage and mostly for supporting one of the most ancient art forms- theater and storytelling,” Winterfire said. “It was truly humbling to feel the support of our community. People traveled to come see us perform, and we met and spoke to many of them.

“They were so moved in deep ways and to hear their stories and how they assimilated it to the play it was that the best gift a performer could ask for, is to truly touch their audience,” Winterfire continued. “We feel like we’re so full of gratitude for the people who donated and helped make this happen.”

*bree valle does not capitalize her first and last name