The Elephant Man
by Bernard Pomerance
- Desserts with the Director - Saturday, February 25th and Saturday, March 3rd
Field Trips (Student Matinees) - February 28, 29, March 1 & 2
The Eponymous Theatre Critic
Director's Comments: The Elephant Man
“I am not an animal, I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!” These famous words were uttered in David Lynch’s 1980 adaptation of the true story of John Merrick, the Elephant Man. What I love about the Elephant Man are the issues it raises that are still relevant today. What is considered beautiful? What is considered ugly? Do we still judge a book by its cover? Do we still treat people who are born with horribly disfiguring congenital diseases differently? How do we treat others who look different from us, whether it is someone who is burned, in a wheelchair, missing a limb, have severe acne, or a weight problem, or wear eyeglasses,or wear different clothes, or have a different hairstyle, or have tattoos or multiple piercings? Do we look away, do we still make fun of people who are different from us? Why does this still happen in middle-school, and high school? The Elephant Man teaches us to look into the soul of each other and see the true spirit located inside. Michael Chekov once stated, “At our core we shine, our core has never been spat on or made fun of.” The story of the Elephant man is a haunting masterpiece of compassion, beauty and ultimately, humanity.
Summary: Set in 19th Century Victorian England, the play tells the true story of John Merrick, treated first as a fairground freak. As a carnival attraction, Merrick is known only as 'The Elephant Man'. Riots are started because of his deformed body. Eventually, Merrick is discovered by a young doctor, Treves. Treves provides him with a home in the London Hospital where Merrick is cared for well but also used for fund-raising.
During a meeting, Treves discovers that Merrick can talk and is educated. John Merrick reveals that he has had this strange disease since he was 14 which benign tumors grow all over his body, face and hands, in which he must sleep sitting up or he will die from suffocation. "I believe my mother was frightened by an elephant when she was carrying me.
Treves attempts to introduce Merrick to London society and brings him over to meet with his wife who hides her shock at Merrick's appearance. Soon, local newspapers run articles on Merrick. One is read by actress Mrs. Kendal who visits Merrick, tells him about her life in the theater and gives him a copy of Shakespeare's plays. Merrick questions the logic of Romeo and Juliet, which shows his amazing intelligence. But he becomes perplexed at the Victorian values.
We find that Merrick is an artist. With his one beautiful, working hand, he works on an amazing replica model of St. Phillip's church, which he can see from the window of his hospital room. "I believe my head is so big because it's filled with dreams."
One evening, Merrick's former boss (Bytes) at the carnival kidnaps Merrick and takes him to France. Severely neglected and very ill, Merrick is once more put on display as the Elephant Man. Bytes' son tells his father that he cannot take seeing him humiliate a human being. That night, Bytes' son, with the help of other carnival freaks, assists Merrick's escape to England.
Reunited with Treves, Merrick visits the theater with Treves and his wife where Mrs. Kendal has her performance dedicated to him.
Now back in England, what will happen to John Merrick?
What other dreams does he have?
What can we learn from Merrick?
You will find the answers in the production.
A feature of the play is how John Merrick is portrayed. He is portrayed by a young adult actor without makeup or any things added to him. The goal is for the audience to see the soul of John Merrick and not the body.
Director and Cast Interview
Directed by | RICHARD KEITEL
Set/Prop Designer | JOHNMICHAEL BOHACH
Lighting Designer | J.R. SHAW
Costume Designer | PAULA PARKER
Sound Designer | ANGELA BAUGHMAN
Scenic Painter | JILL BLACK
Technical Director | GEORGE DESHELTER
Stage Manager | KIERA PHILLIPS
Cast - Biographies
Treves | JUSTIN FORTUNATO
John Merrick | SEAN SEARS
Carr Gomm | JOHN REILLY
Ross/Bishop How/Snork | BRIAN CZARNIECKI
Lord John | CONNOR MCCANLUS
Mrs. Kendall| MAGGIE RYAN
Miss Sandwich/Pinhead | LILY DAVIS
Pinhead/Countess | REBECCA KNOWLES
Some additional websites to prepare your visit:
Joseph Merrick:- Tribute Site
A Biography of Joseph Merrick: