Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Elephant Man to be staged

STAFF REPORTER THE HINDU –03 SEPTEMBER

Lokadharmi is bringing another first to the city with the staging of “The Elephant Man,” the play that has been toasted as an analysis of the man’s search for his real persona.

Written by Bernad Pomerance in 1977, the play is based on the life of Joseph Merrick, who suffered from extreme physical deformities and lived in London during the second half of the 19th Century. Afflicted by a rare skin and bone disease, Merrick was first paraded around as a star attraction in a travelling show before being admitted to the renowned Whitechapel Hospital in London.

With support from Frederick Treves, a young physician at the hospital, Merrick was slowly introduced to the higher strata of the English society, but his dream of leading a normal life remained unfulfilled.

The play that established Pomerance’s position as a playwright was premiered in 1979 and won him the Tony Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Award, an Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award, and the outer Critics’ Circle Award. The play was made into a successful Hollywood film in 1980.

In the words of Terry Converse, Professor of Theatre in the Washington State University School of Music and Theatre Arts, who is co-directing the Lokadharmi production along with Chandradasan (the art director of Lokadharmi), “as Merrick becomes the toast of Victorian society, his ambitious saviours are confronted with deformities of their own souls.”

The encounter with Merrick, the elephant man, also made the Victorian society aware of the masks it put on in interpersonal relations. “Merrick’s lack of mask — his lack of protection — ironically made him less “freakish” than many of the more “protected” people who interacted with him.” At another dimension, the play is also about empathy and sensitivity, evoked when one encounters those affected by personal tragedies.

Dr. Converse, who teaches direction and specialises in use of masks in theatre, is on a Full Bright scholarship to work with Lokadharmi for six months. “Depending on the pace of the work, we are expecting to stage the production in three to four months. We need nearly 25 actors for the play, who will be selected through audition,” said Mr. Chandradasan, who has started the translation of the play. The production will be done in Malayalam under the title “Gajamanushyan.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Gajamaushyan- The Elephant Man

elephant-man-bookLokadharmi announces the casting/audition workshop for its new production Gajamanushyan, an adaptation in Malayalam of  the play ‘The Elephant Man’ written by Bernard Pomerance

The play will be co-directed by Dr.Terry Converse, (Professor of Theatre in the Washington State University School of Music and Theatre arts) and Chandradasan,(the artistic director of Lokadharmi ). The workshop starts at 10.00 am on 2nd September 2012, at KEEB Hall behind Public Library Ernakulam.

The Elephant Man is a 1977 play by Bernard Pomerance.

The story is based on the life of Joseph Merrick who lived in London during the latter part of the nineteenth century and is known for the extreme deformity of his body.

eleA horribly deformed young man, victim of rare skin and bone diseases, he has become the star freak attraction in travelling side shows. Found abandoned and helpless, he is admitted to London's prestigious Whitechapel hospital. Under the care of celebrated young physician Frederick Treves, Merrick is introduced to London society and slowly evolves from an object of pity to an urbane and witty favourite of the aristocracy and literati. But his belief that he can become a man like any other is a dream never to be realized.

The elephant Man is a winner of numerous Tony Awards including Best Play.

Bernard Pomerance is an American playwright and poet born in PomeranceBrooklyn, New York in 1940. He is a very private man and there is very little information about his parents, his childhood, his early education, or his personal life.

Pomerance was a student at the University of Chicago, but then moved to London when he was in his early thirties. After moving to England, he began working with small, innovative theatre groups. His first play, High In Vietnam, Hot Damn was performed at the Interaction Almost Free Theatre in 1972 and directed by Roland Rees With director Roland Rees, he founded the Foco Novo theatre group, which produced Pomerance’s early plays. Other productions include Someone Else Is Still Someone (Bush Theatre, 1974), Melons (RSC 1985-6) and an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s A Man’s A Man (Hampstead Theatre, 1975).

Pomerance’s reputation as a playwright is based on one play, The Elephant Man, first performed in 1979 and then made into a successful Hollywood film in 1980. The play initially opened in London at the Hampstead Theatre before moving to New York and eventually opening on Broadway. For The Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance won a Tony Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Award, an Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award, and the outer Critics’ Circle Award.

Several of Pomerance’s plays take as their subject politically weighted views of American history

Note from Terry Converse

As Merrick becomes the toast of Victorian society, his ambitious saviours are confronted with deformities of their own souls. In the early part of the twentieth century Jung argued that the personality could conceal itself behind a persona—or mask. The persona is a false personality that individuals adopt to facilitate social interactions. Although the mask can help in taking the rough edges off interpersonal relationships, it also poses a risk that the wearer will mistake it for his or her true personality. A persona becomes a problem only when a person becomes too attached to it and cannot put it aside. When a person cannot move flexibly between roles—when the mask can’t be removed—then the persona not only hides the person from others but also from himself. Merrick condition obliterated the possibility of his ever having a protective persona, and without a mask, he was forever exposed and vulnerable. Yet, Merrick’s lack of mask—his lack of protection—ironically made him less “freakish” than many of the more “protected” people who interacted with him.

When life hurls upon us such horrors as divorce, disease, and death, perhaps that is when we are most receptive to identifying with the Elephant Man, and tapping into what this play is really about—empathy and sensitivity.

Dr. Terry Converse is a Professor of Theatre in the Washington terry converseState University School of Music and Theatre arts, where he teaches Direting, Contemporary world theatre, Script Analysis etc..

He holds an M.F.A. in directing from the University of Minnesota and Ph.D. in Theatre Arts from the University of California at Los Angles. Prior to coming to Washington State University, he taught at Centre College in Kentucky, the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and Livingston University in Alabama. Additionally, Dr. Converse has directed works for the Long Beach Grand Opera, the Guthrie Other Place Theatre, The Arkansas Art Center, Cherry County Players, Peninsula Players, and Theatre by the Sea. His text: Directing for the Stage: a Workshop Guide of Creative Exercises and Projects is published by Meriwether. He has presented papers and all-day workshops at the National Convention of Association for Theatre in Higher Education and at the Northwest Drama Conference. He has directed twenty-eight plays with university students and thirteen plays/musicals/operas in professional settings.