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What is “The Elephant Man”?

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What is “The Elephant Man”?

Drawing of John Merrick originally published in the British Medical Journal: "The "Elephant-Man" 11 December 1886

Drawing of John Merrick originally published in the British Medical Journal: "The "Elephant-Man" 11 December 1886

Drawing of John Merrick originally published in the British Medical Journal: "The "Elephant-Man" 11 December 1886

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Jesuit High School Drama has been engrossed in preparing for the fall play, “The Elephant Man.” Most students, however, have never heard of the play nor much of its origins, so what is “The Elephant Man”?

Bernard Pomerance, an American playwright, created the play in 1977 and loosely based it off an actual person, Joseph Merrick, (“John Merrick” in the play). Merrick was a man born with extreme deformities of the body.

Many theatre programs have attempted to adapt the play, including the British Broadcasting Company and Broadway, and Jesuit Drama is next.

Jesuit Drama’s Artistic Director Mr. Ed Trafton ’84 loves the play and is excited to bring it to the Black Box Theatre..

“After a few years of creating our own documentary-style pieces, it was time, in the words of Jesuit Drama senior and 2018-19 student representative [Gabriel] Rogers ’19, to do a ‘real play’—something already scripted that would give our talented actors a good acting challenge and our awesome technicians an interesting world to create,” said Mr. Trafton

The actors who have taken the role of Merrick traditionally didn’t use prosthetics or makeup, forcing the audience to imagine the deformities .

Mr. Trafton explained that Obinna Okoye ’19, who is playing the Elephant Man, will follow the traditional model, using only his body – not makeup – to explain the deformities of the character.

It’ll be a challenge for Obinna and something pretty amazing to watch when he slowly begins to twist and contort as a doctor describes his condition,” said Mr. Trafton. “Obinna will have to work out, stay in shape, and be very careful about how he handles his body for this demanding role.”

Core values such as compassion and acceptance are found throughout the performance and it is easy to see that this play is something the Jesuit community can stand behind.

One of the many reasons I love this play is that its values are so congruent, so in line with our Jesuit values, chief among them the value of what it means to be a person for others,” said Mr. Trafton.

Actors Joey Crespo ’19 and Gabe Rogers agree that the values in the play relate to the ethics of the school, such as compassion for others and solidarity with the marginalized.

“Joseph Merrick is someone in the play who isn’t treated [as a] human just because of his disability,” said Joey. “Everybody should be treated with human compassion because we are all human on the inside.”

“I find it interesting how the Elephant Man sort of acts as a mirror for the society and shows the faults in its ways,” said Gabe. “As [Dr. Treves] spends more time with the Elephant Man, he sees how messed up Victorian society is. He begins to struggle with the question of who is really deformed, the Elephant Man or society.”

The first performance will commence on Nov. 1 and will run through Nov. 13. Make sure to purchase a ticket and show your support for the amazing actors and tech crew that made this show happen.

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