University of New Haven Theater Program to Reprise Real-Life Tragedy "Elephant's Graveyard"
Based on a true story, "Elephant's Graveyard" explores the themes of justice, morality, and fear – as well as hope. The curtain comes up March 4 to 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Bucknall Theater in Dodds Hall.
February 28, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
For Samantha Slaza '20, a theater arts major, playing the tour manager in the University's upcoming production of "Elephant's Graveyard" enabled her to try something new, and to grow as an actor.
"The style of performance is something that isn't done in a lot of school productions," she explains. "It is very engaging. It is performed directly to the audience. It taught me a lot of new techniques that I think every actor should have."
"This show does a fantastic job of conveying the benefits and flaws of various worldviews and social problems – but in very subtle ways."Barry Libowitz '22
That was partly why the University's theater program chose the play, says Margaret Savilonis, Ph.D., associate professor and co-coordinator of the program. Endeavoring to produce a season of contemporary plays – written in the past 15 years – the program wanted to offer students opportunities to work in a wide range of theatrical styles that also speak to contemporary social issues.
Written by George Brant, "Elephant's Graveyard" tells the true story of a circus elephant being hung in a small Tennessee town in 1916. The play explores issues of justice, violence, fear, morality, and spectacle. It is a blend of fiction and fact that includes dialogue that is drawn from primary source material such as newspaper accounts of the incident.
"One of the things I was drawn to when I first read the play several years ago is its deceptive simplicity," said Savilonis. "The characters speak mainly in monologues, retelling the story of Mary, the ‘killer' elephant, from various perspectives. Despite its somewhat gruesome subject matter, it is often very funny, and I think there is a deep vein of hopefulness that runs through the work."
First produced at the University of Texas at Austin more than a decade ago, the play received the school's Keene Prize for Literature, as well as the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award.
"This show highlights important parts of American history through the retelling of a true story."Rebecca Satzberg '20
Barry Libowitz '22 has enjoyed playing the role of Charlie Sparks, the circus ringmaster.
"This show does a fantastic job of conveying the benefits and flaws of various worldviews and social problems – but in very subtle ways," said Libowitz, a marine biology major. "It's enjoyable to try to note the allusions and callbacks to other works."
Rebecca Satzberg '20, a music and sound recording major, says that although the play is set more than a century ago, it is still very relevant.
"This show highlights important parts of American history through the retelling of a true story," said Satzberg, who is minoring in theater arts and economics. "The show – and the impact of it – will leave the audience with a lot to consider about our current political climate."