Jamison Theater | February 16–26
Cultured, self-educated, human—words not often used to describe the stars of sideshow attractions in the 19th century, but such is the case for Joseph Merrick, known as the Elephant Man. Merrick’s medical malady made him a staple of human oddity in life and the subject of books, film, and award-winning theatre long after his death.
Studio Tenn’s Matt Logan brings Victorian romanticism to Middle Tennesseans as artistic director of the Broadway classic The Elephant Man, set to appear on the stage of The Factory’s Jamison Theater in mid February. A performance you don’t want to miss, The Elephant Man follows the amazing transformation Merrick faced, pulling the heartstrings of audiences everywhere by conveying tragedy and inner beauty through a powerful blend of craftsmanship and drama.
Logan challenges the audience through dramatic, poetic portrayals of Merrick and his condition, abandoning the use of prosthetics to portray the Elephant Man through physical artistry and movement. “It will be an experience like no other for our audience,” Logan said. “We’re conveying Merrick’s abnormalities by putting to use a more sophisticated physical theatricality that will not only bring Merrick’s external form, but internal, to life.”
Once again, Studio Tenn brings superior talent to the stage to depict the condition that consumed Merrick’s body. In his first Studio Tenn production, Taylor Novak delivers an unmatched performance in the role of Joseph Merrick, embracing the physical challenges that will be used to illustrate Merrick’s rough, gray, elephant-like skin.
“This is a major ‘coming-of-age’ role for me here at Studio Tenn,” Novak said. “It will be a very strenuous part to play both physically and emotionally, but I’m blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive cast.”
Composed of 12 actors, The Elephant Man is set to include Studio Tenn regulars Brent Maddox (It’s A Wonderful Life, The Glass Menagerie) as Dr. Frederick Treves and Megan Murphy Chambers (The Wizard of Oz, Les Misérables) as Mrs. Kendal. Making its Broadway debut in 1979, Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man is based largely on Treves’s book The Elephant Man chronicling Merrick’s life story.
David Bowie, Mark Hamill, and Bradley Cooper have all graced the stage as the “half man, half elephant” and have over the years earned the production a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, a Tony Award for Best Play, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, and many others. Following the success of the stage play, The Elephant Man later became a Hollywood film starring William Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, and Anne Bancroft, which received a number of American and British Academy Awards.
Logan’s inspiration to add The Elephant Man to the Studio Tenn season and present the masterpiece in a more compassionate light stems largely from the deep, emotionally compelling story of Merrick. “Merrick’s journey focuses on the difference in who we are underneath versus what we look like on the surface,” Logan said. “It reminds us to always examine our hearts and brings the question of who is truly the doctor and who is the patient to the surface.”