Mason Players Present ‘The Elephant Man’

Posted: March 18, 2011 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: March 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm

By Jill Graziano Laiacona

George Mason University Theater at Mason and Mason Players bring Bernard Pomerance’s “The Elephant Man” to the stage beginning March 31.

Directed by Mason playwright Heather McDonald, the production will be performed in Harris Theater on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

Performances are scheduled for March 31 and April 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m., and for April 2, 9 and 10 at 2 p.m.  Please note that this production contains explicit scenes and nudity.

Written in 1977, “The Elephant Man” is based on the life of John Merrick, who lived in London during the latter part of the 19th century. As depicted in the play, a severely deformed Merrick  appears regularly as a freak attraction in sideshows.

One day, though, he is found abandoned and helpless on the streets, and is admitted to Whitechapel, a prestigious hospital in London. A renowned young surgeon befriends him and introduces him into high society. Once the object of pity and disgust, under the doctor’s influence, Merrick transforms into an educated and urbane young man who is embraced by the London aristocracy and literati.

Pomerance’s interpretation of this remarkable historical figure is, at times, both extraordinarily uplifting and incredibly heartbreaking. The play is a testament to the belief that beauty lies within.

“The Elephant Man” debuted on Broadway at New York’s Booth Theatre in 1979, originally starring Philip Anglim as Merrick. Bruce Davidson, David Bowie and Mark Hamill, among others, would also eventually play in the starring role.

The original production won multiple Tony, Obie and Drama Desk awards, including the 1979 Tony for Best Play. The Broadway revival of the play was staged at New York’s Royale Theatre in 2002 starring Billy Crudup, who earned a Tony for his portrayal of Merrick.

McDonald, a professor of theater at Mason, is an award-winning playwright and director. She is also co-artistic director of Theater of the First Amendment, Mason’s professional theater company in residence.

McDonald’s work has been produced at theaters nationally and internationally and on Broadway. She has been active in the theater community throughout the Washington, D.C., area. Her work has been recognized with a Helen Hayes Award, three NEA Playwriting Fellowships and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize.

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students, faculty, staff, seniors and groups. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit cfa.gmu.edu.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu