10/09/2012 02:23 PM
BATON ROUGE – LSU’s Department of Theatre Mainstage will begin its 2012-13 season with performances of “Elephant’s Graveyard,” written by George Brant and directed by Joanna Battles, November 7-18 at the Reilly Theatre, located on Tower Drive.
Based on a true story, “Elephant’s Graveyard” transports the audience back to 1916 Erwin, Tenn., when “Sparks Worlds Famous Shows” comes to town to set up its big top. During the circus’s opening parade in town, the star attraction, an enormous Indian elephant named Mary kills an abusive rider. The town and the circus members immediately clash over how to settle the matter, and ultimately on what is just and what is justice. A remarkable story, “Elephant’s Graveyard” forces audiences to reexamine America’s ongoing preoccupation with spectacle, violence and revenge.
“Elephant’s Graveyard,” written by George Brant in 2008, is rooted to the horrific story of an elephant named Mary, who was lynched in Tennessee in 1916. Brant first began exploring the piece through the original headlines surrounding the lynching. His focus quickly shifted to photographs surrounding the story, and the very imagery of the incident.
“There was something disturbing about the picture on a primal level, beyond the obvious cruelty,” Brant said. “The picture is blurry, cloudy, muddy, misremembered even at its moment of documentation.”
Director Joanna Battles said she seeks to represent this visual aspect of the play, while stressing its relevance to modern audiences.
“I hope that this production will not only bear witness to history, but allow the audience to learn from the mistakes of those who have come before,” she said. “My hope is that this play will instigate the audience to act in the face of oppression and injustice, rather than allow them to be caught up in the seduction of group mentality and general apathy.”
“Elephant’s Graveyard” uses exceptional visceral imagery to create a demanding theatrical experience. The play primarily consists of direct address to the audience, a presentational manner that creates a unique experience for viewers. Additionally, it is performed on an arena stage, creating a relationship between the actors and audience members that furthers the core ideals of the piece. Set designer Ken George has created a fascinating setting which helps blend not only the worlds of the play, namely the circus and the town of Erwin, but incorporates the audience directly into the action as well.
In addition to the spectacle of the set, “Elephant’s Graveyard” will feature live music throughout the performance. Musicians guide the audience emotionally through the tale. Brant said his intention behind the addition of music was to, “further break up the monologues and move the play toward becoming a musical score.” The effect is undeniable, as audiences experience the musicality of the production through both actors and musicians.
“Elephant’s Graveyard” is a demanding, exceptional theatrical piece that will move audience members. Reaching through music, drama and imagery, the show will ask viewers to reexamine their own approach to entertainment, and the ideas of America’s ongoing love affair with violence and spectacle. Thought provoking, shockingly current, and palpably affecting, “Elephant’s Graveyard” is theatre at its best, and not to be missed.
“Elephant’s Graveyard” will offer two reduced price, pre-opening performances. There is a Pay-What-You-Can Performance on Wednesday, Nov. 7, with a recommended minimum donation of $10. Additionally, there will be a Sneak Preview on Thursday, Nov. 8, with $12 admission for the general public. The production opens on Friday, Nov.9, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 18. Tickets are $12 for students, $15 for senior citizens and LSU faculty and staff, and $18 for adults. Discounts are available in advance for groups of 10 or more. This production is supported by the LSU Performing Arts Fee.
To purchase tickets or to learn more about the LSU Department of Theatre, call 225-578-3527, or visit www.theatre.lsu.edu.
Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2012