‘Kinderkrankenhaus’ takes stage at Colgate

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HAMILTON — Jesi Bender Buell’s original play “Kinderkrankenhaus” will debut on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 12 and 13, at 5 p.m. at Colgate University’s Brehmer Theatre in the Dana Arts Center.

“Kinderkrankenhaus” deals with neurodiversity and deficiency paradigms, but more largely about language. Inspired by Derrida’s “Cinders” and Hesiod’s “Theogony,” Colgate Associate Professor Bender Buell explores how language constructs reality and ultimately, our understanding of “the self.”

Further, the playwright examines how confusing language is and how reliant we are on assumptions that others understand our words in the same way we do.

The cast is an inclusive one, with many of the key roles filled by neurodiverse actors.

“At the heart of language’s malleability is the understanding that all brains operate in their own, unique way and the perspectives that autistic and other neurodiverse actors bring to these roles are invaluable,” Buell said.

Roman Ted Lenio, an alumnus of Colgate celebrating his 50th reunion this summer, said he feels privileged to be playing one of these principal roles.

“’Dr. Dorothy Schmetterling,’ the authoritarian psychiatric director of the children’s ‘hospital,’ is a key foil and contrast to the heroic, insightful and intelligent kids who challenge the institution and society’s notions of acceptable behavior and communication itself. Playing the doctor has helped me appreciate my own neurodiversity, which I believe we all share,” Lenio said.

Also playing lead roles are E. Simonton Williams of Hamilton as ‘Gnome’ and Max Collins of Norwich as ‘Cinders.’ Their portrayals are set among one of the most technically dazzling displays of visual and sound effects for theater-goers, all under the tutelage of New York City Director Andrew Neisler. 

The play has already earned acclaim in several published reviews including Matthew Tomkinson’s “Full Stop” assessment: “Whatever the format, for a relatively short play, this one holds an exceptional degree of complexity and vitality. In many regards, Kinderkrankenhaus has the makings of a contemporary classic...In this remarkably inventive work, Bender dares to invert this formula, and the results are as brilliant as they are heartbreaking.” 

“Kinderkrankenhaus” is funded by the Colgate Arts Council and the Ho Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative. Additionally, this project was made possible with the funds from the Statewide Community Regrants Program, the state Council on the Arts, and support from the governor’s office and State Legislature, administered by CNY Arts.

Free tickets are available at tinyurl.com/SMOLsaturday and tinyurl.com/SMOLsunday. Those attending are required to wear masks and be COVID-vaccinated. A talk-back session with Buell and Neisler will follow Saturday’s performance, with each presentation approximately 90 minutes, including intermission.

Sunday’s performance will be live streamed at: https://youtu.be/7kf1ohs_Pr8 and https://livestream.com/colgateuniversity/kinderkrankenhaus.

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