Theatre Information

Oakton High School Elephant’s Graveyard

By • Nov 28th, 2013 • Category: Cappies, Virginia

“It was September, and there was a town, there was a circus, there was an elephant, and there was a man with red hair,” these words, spoken over and over by the cast of Oakton High School’s captivating and intriguing production of Elephant’s Graveyard, foreshadowed the dreadful story of a circus’ misfortune in the small town of Erwin, Tennessee.

Elephant’s Graveyard, written by George Brant, is based on a true story, walking through the tale of a circus elephant, by the name of Mary, who was brought to the town of Erwin, Tennessee. Mary was a large animal who captivated audiences across the nation. When the Circus arrived in Kingsport, just one stop before Erwin, a man with red hair was so captivated by Mary that he joined the Circus that very day. He was given the opportunity to ride Mary in Irwin’s circus parade, against the elephant trainer’s wishes. Unfortunately, he was not ready and Mary threw him off her back and crushed him. The town was enraged and demanded that the elephant be killed. Elephant’s Graveyard captures the stress put on the Circus performers by the killing of the elephant.

The carnies; the Ringmaster (Christine Cox), the Strongman (Gunnar Michael), the Clown (Quentin Smith), the Ballet Girl (Emilia Brennan), and the Trainer (Alex James) gave outstanding performances. Of these players, the Ringmaster, the Ballet Girl, and the Trainer stood out on stage. Cox portrayed the mercenary Ringmaster, who knew that ‘an elephant was an investment,’ with her frank attitude and slight uncertainty in herself, perfectly showing the Ringmaster’s hesitation to see if she can live up to her father’s expectations. Every time the Ballet Girl pranced on stage, she brought the spirit and swagger of a flirtatious showgirl who can flash a smile to grab one’s attention and claims ‘an elephant is a girl’s best friend.’ James depicted the loving animal trainer thoughtfully and pulled at heartstrings when he lead his love, Mary, to her death.

The alluring backlighting silhouetted the circus tent allowing the circus to be seen during a character’s monologue without overshadowing their performance with distracting colors and tones. The spotlight lighting, specifically on the Ringmaster, set the tone of her monologue, casting shadows and sharp angles on her face on stage.

Set Design by Oakton High School tech class was plain, simple, and perfect for the show. Big, distracting set pieces would have taken away from the character’s actions and monologues. The set pieces included a small circus wagon, bench, and circus tent. The band, Walter & The Dirty Boots, also doubled as set pieces when the Strongman pulled the band across the stage.

The show’s sound effects and music were performed by the three-man band, Walter and the Dirty Boots (John Fee, Jack Goodin, and Justin Pirrochi). Goodin and Pirrochi composed and arranged the show’s music using the lyrics from John Hurt and Etta James’ song “You Got to Lift It.” Goodin and Pirrochi also made new arrangements off of Julius Fucik’s song “Entry of the Gladiators.” Walter & The Dirty Boots enhanced the actor’s monologues by performing background music and sound effects while they performed. The band, for example, enhanced the Ringmaster’s monologues by softly playing “Entry of the Gladiators” behind her and playing a Russian-like arrangement for the strongman’s monologues. The band also provided sound effects using a train whistle, ratchet, and a bell tree.

Oakton High School gave a fantastically incredible performance of Elephant’s Graveyard, a heartbreaking and touching story of a circus, an elephant, and a vengeful town who wanted justice for an elephant’s unintentional wrongdoing.

by Margaret O’Meara of West Potomac High School

Photo Gallery

Ringmaster Christine Cox and cast Strong Man Gunnar Michael and cast
Ringmaster Christine Cox and cast
Strong Man Gunnar Michael and cast

Photos by Vanessa Gelinas

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