TALK THROUGH IT ◊ EPISODE THREE
STUART MELTZER TAKES A BREAK FROM REHEARSAL TO CHAT WITH NIKI FRIDH, CAST MEMBER OF THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
Stuart: Niki Fridh
Niki: Stuart Meltzer
Stuart: There is an “H” in your last name
Niki: There is!
Stuart: How long did it take you to learn how to spell your last name?
Niki: Not long at all! For everyone else it took forever, but not me! It’s very easy “F-R-I-D-H” did you know I was buying a tire the other day and the guys asked me “do you wanna buy a vowel?”
Stuart: Buy a vowel?
Niki: Yeah! I was like “…there’s an “I” in it…” I thought he said do you wanna buy a valve—like, for the car.
Stuart: That sounds personal. Thank you for speaking with me. This is the top of our second week of rehearsal. You play the role of Judy. Tell me about your character.
Niki: Ohhhhh Judy, Judy, Judy. She is the mother of an autistic son and I think she is very much challenged by that. She even says at one point in the script about maybe if she had a son or a daughter that was not challenged by autism, that maybe, she would have been a better mother. I think she finds that really challenging. And she doesn’t have a very good relationship with the husband. I think because of the challenges of having an autistic child takes a great toll on her marriage and self-confidence. But I think she does try her best and she comes around to the end to do what she thinks is the best thing for her son.
Stuart: I agree with you on that, her life is not easy.
Stuart: I think it’s incredibly relatable to a lot of parents—regardless of special needs or other
Niki: I think so too
Stuart: She has to learn how to love her son at times.
Niki: Yes, and forgive herself for her mistakes.
Stuart: Do you like this play?
Niki: I love this play. And I love it because it’s not a story we hear very often. We don’t hear many stories about people like Christopher, it’s not seen in plays very often.
Stuart: You’re right. Not from this perspective—of Christopher’s mind-view of the world, as a gifted autistic young boy.
Niki: Right so it’s from his perspective. I love what you’re doing with the production because I love that it’s about energy, and it’s the energy of all these people making contact with him and this explosion!
Stuart: Judy’s son, Christopher doesn’t have a very clear connection with his emotional world, however everybody around him does and he has to witness some not-so-nice things at times.
Niki: Yeah, and it’s like not being able to connect emotionally but everyone else connects to emotion around him so his navigation off that while learning about life and growing up. The play is very relatable. Not because I’m autistic, but because you see someone else’s perspective. I really think when people come to see this play they may get a glimpse of what it feels like to be autistic. That’s once of the reasons I love it so much.
Stuart: Mark Haddon who wrote the book and Simon Stephens who adapted the book into a play were immensely successful in capturing the curiosity and wonderment of this young adult. The structure of the book and play spark the imagination and excites go the child within us all. So this is your second time at Zoetic stage?
Niki: Yes! It is!
Stuart: You were here with us a few years ago when you did the play Trust. It was a lot of fun and Gretchen who was in that show is in Curious with us too!
Niki: A Reunion!
Stuart: You work a lot in Broward, and in Palm Beach County. In fact you live in Delray. So it’s a little but of a schlep. Your husband is the Artistic Director of TheatreLab.
Niki: Yep, TheatreLab. The resident professional theatre company on the campus of FAU (Florida Atlantic University).
Stuart: So this is a theatre that’s been operating for about 6 years?
Niki: About four, and the first two seasons were just all play readings of new work. Now, they do 3 Main Stage performances, plus an education program, and the Playwrights Forum, AND the New Play Festival, which is going on right now. So there’s a lot of programming.
Stuart: Wow! So you husband Matt Stabile, who I love and has acted with us before, is a busy guy up there!
Niki: Very busy!
Stuart: And right now they are doing a New Play Festival? When does that run?
Niki: It’s this Friday, Saturday, Sunday—January 4th, 5th, and 6th. So there’s one reading on Friday, Three readings on Saturday, and one reading on Sunday.
Stuart: Our readers can click on this link or the link below to get to know Theatre Lab a bit more and get info about Theatre Lab’s new play festival.
Stuart: One last thing before we get back to rehearsal: what do you think people are going to take away from their experience with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?
Niki: I think they’re going to take away the magic of theatre. I really do. What’s happening with it, it’s so simple to look at, but what we’re creating it’s magical and it’s storytelling and what I want it to be is people will leave and be speechless. Because the power of theatre is really strong, and it doesn’t happen with every show you go to, but I think this one really will inspire people to go see more theatre because it really shows the power of live theatre.
Stuart: I hope so and I’m so glad to be working with you on this project.
Stuart: And our stage manager, Amy Rauchwerger, is looking over our shoulder taping her watch.
Niki: Gatta go!