By Katy Shenk
Student Life Editor

During many moments this weekend, Tawes Theatre was silent save for the sound of senior Nathan Krimmel’s shuffling footsteps in his portrayal of John Merrick, the Elephant Man.

Krimmel produced and performed in his senior performance thesis, “ The Elephant Man” by Bernard Pomerance, on April 27 and 28. 

“The Elephant Man” is based on the life of Joseph Merrick, called John in the script, who lived in Victorian England and was known for his extreme physical deformities. In the show, Merrick is rescued from a street circus by Dr. Frederick Treves, a surgeon at the London Hospital played by junior Patrick Huff.

During his time at the hospital, Merrick learns the norms of Victorian society while exploring his love for art, literature, and sharing his ideas with those around him.

“In playing the role of John Merrick, I have given myself the difficult task of making what seems to be a fantastical, unrealistic character into a three-dimensional, living human being that exists on this stage, on this night, in this place,” Krimmel said in his producer’s note.

Krimmel explored the topic of physical disability not only through “The Elephant Man,” but also in his sociology thesis, which focused on physical disability and its impact on identity.

He reached out to his former co-actor and lighting designer Brian Klose, Class of 2017, to direct the production.

“I had an immediately positive reaction after reading the script, and after a great couple conversations, Nate and the theatre department offered me the position,” Klose said.

Klose also spoke to the difficulty of managing all of the “moving parts” within the 21 scene play, with 10 actors playing 20 different characters.

Krimmel and the rest of the cast were assisted by movement coaches Professor A. T. Moffett and senior Anna Gjersten, who also played the role of Mrs. Kendal.

One of the most rewarding parts of the process for Klose was the experience of working with a new group of actors, some who were making their theatre debut. Their amazing work ethic, he said, made the rehearsals rewarding and eye-opening.

Freshman Danny Palmatary, who played both Ross and Gomm, spoke to the personal impact of the performance.

“I think one of the biggest things I learned from this production is how to approach a subject like suffering and life’s hardships and create a dialogue about it in a way that’s meaningful, while bringing together a group of people who want to share that dialogue with others,” he said.

Alongside suffering, “The Elephant Man” explores the theme of a humanity that lies beyond physical appearance. Throughout the performance, each of the characters are able to see parts of themselves in their interactions with Merrick.

“Merrick, like other physically disabled individuals, was disadvantaged because of his external appearance. He yearns to be validated by others so that he can be seen, heard, and understood just as we, in our own lives, attempt to be seen, accepted, and validated by others,” Krimmel said.

Krimmel closed his producer’s note by thanking the sociology and theatre departments, his family, friends, and Team Elephant Man, and finally, Joseph Merrick himself. 

 

The Elm

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