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Expanding Access: Why Raleigh Little Theatre Is Making An Effort To Cast Actors With Disabilities

Poster of RLT's Curious Incident shows Michael in a red hoodie looking up at a night sky.
Courtesy of Raleigh Little Theatre
Raleigh Little Theatre's upcoming production of 'Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time' stars a teen with autism portraying the lead character, who also has autism.

Actors make their living by telling the stories of other people. It is a craft marked by embodying a completely different life. But sometimes this process pushes out those who could most authentically tell the story. 

Historically, most actors cast in plays have been able-bodied and neurotypical. Raleigh Little Theater is working to include greater disability representation in their programming. In 2018 they started putting on “sensory friendly” performances, and after receiving positive feedback, they decided it was time to step up their efforts and include people with disabilities in the cast, not just the audience.

The theater’s upcoming production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is directed by Patrick Torres and stars Michael Larson. Larson is a 17-year-old junior at Eno River Academy in Hillsborough. He has autism, just like the main character in the play. Even though the role is not usually portrayed by an actor on the spectrum, Torres says it was important to RLT to cast someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the role.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Torres and Larson about the play and why theaters and the arts should work for greater disability representation. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” runs from Jan. 17-Feb. 9 at the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre in Raleigh. The sensory-friendly performance is Feb. 9 at 3 p.m.

Josie Taris left her home in Fayetteville in 2014 to study journalism at Northwestern University. There, she took a class called Journalism of Empathy and found her passion in audio storytelling. She hopes every story she produces challenges the audience's preconceptions of the world. After spending the summer of 2018 working in communications for a Chicago nonprofit, she decided to come home to work for the station she grew up listening to. When she's not working, Josie is likely rooting for the Chicago Cubs or petting every dog she passes on the street.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.