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DSU Theatre to present ‘Elephant Man’

While the DSU spring play “The Elephant Man” is all about kindness, the Bernard Pomerance play lends itself more to making audiences uncomfortable, said DSU theatre director Kelly MacLeod.

“The play highlights how people show kindness to others, those who are the ‘outsiders,’ the ones who are different,” MacLeod said.

Joseph Merrick appeared to be normal when he was born in England in 1862, but began developing abnormalities as a young boy, tumors and other skin growths. He was considered so hideous he was featured in freak shows as “the Elephant Man.” Merrick was eventually befriended by a London doctor, and spent the rest of his short life in a London hospital.

“Merrick’s lines in the play show a clarity of thought which comes from the innocence of his life,” MacLeod said. There is also a reversal of roles at times, she added, in which the doctor becomes the patient and the patient becomes the doctor.

Because it is based on true story, it challenges the cast of 17 to portray people who really existed. There are also physical challenges for DSU student Ryan Marnette, the actor who plays Merrick. Marnette will wear no makeup or prosthetics, but will mimic Merrick’s body and face deformities.

The performances are being held in the Dakota Prairie Playhouse, but with a thrust theatre setup. This brings the audience on stage with the actors, seated on three sides of an acting area. “This is a more intimate space” said MacLeod, “and gives the students a different experience.”

This setup allows for the seating of 88 comfortably, but with these limited numbers, theatre goers are asked to call 605-256-5703 to reserve tickets for the showtimes, which are March 15, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and March 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are $8, but performances are free for DSU students and those with a military ID. MacLeod says the play is recommended for those age 16 and up due to minimal and suggested nudity.