CHS students take to stage with production of “The Elephant Man”

By Jennifer Laurent: Freedom Newspapers

Equipped with professionally-created special effects, and a crew of approximately 30 determined drama students, the theater department of Clovis High School will present “The Elephant Man” Nov. 7-9 at the Lyceum Theatre.

Widely known as the elephant man in the 1800s, John Merrick was stricken with a disease believed by some to be elephantiasis. For the vast majority of his life, Merrick was subject to public scrutiny. Following his death at the age of 28, numerous studies and books have been dedicated to examining his life and disease.

Hollywood special-effect artist Kevin Brennan crafted the elephant man mask and hands for the play.

Brennan, a personal friend of CHS theater teacher Jennifer Metzger, has worked on films such as “An American Werewolf in London,”
“Ghostbusters” and “Passion of the Christ,” as well as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

Clovis senior A.J. Tyler plays Merrick in the 1 1/2-hour play.

The mask weighs about five pounds and is “very hot,” Tyler said. To put the skintight mask on, Tyler said he must sit in a chair while someone places the mask over his head and inches it down until it is in place. The hand pieces worn by his character are so tight that his muscle movement can be seen and they must be inched up by the millimeter, Tyler said

Tyler said he must find other ways to convey Merrick’s feelings because his characters physical deformities prevented him from being able to show emotion.

The show will feature a “pretty cool death scene, very interesting, very original,” Tyler refuses to elaborate further on the subject.

A fund-raiser for the department, the show is the first of three plays for the year. With two to three months dedicated to each production, plans are under way to present “The Diary of Anne Frank” in February with hopes of putting on a musical later in the season.

At a glance

• What: “The Elephant Man”

• Where: The Lyceum Theatre

• When: 6:30 p.m., Nov. 7,8,9

• Tickets: $4 for students and $6 for the public. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door.

• Info: 769-4350