One of the most heart-rending dramas will be presented at Theatre Outback this weekend and next, as students and alumni of Howard Community College perform "The Elephant Man."
"The Elephant Man" tells the story of John (Joseph) Merrick, the unfortunate Englishman who, at age 5, contracted a horrendous disease now said to have been Proteus syndrome, a condition that results in abnormal, asymmetrical growths on the skin, eyes, ears, lungs, muscles and nerves.
After spending time in traveling exhibitions capitalizing on his deformities, Merrick was befriended by a doctor who helped him interact with society while attempting to control his disease.
By all accounts, Merrick was a man of tremendous integrity and dignity, which infuses moments of tremendous uplift into the dramatic story of his life. That point is reinforced in the play, which covers the seven-year span of Merrick's association with his medical and emotional support team.
"He was an avid reader, a bright, rational man who never complained about his physical and emotional discomfort, even after several surgeries," says Susan G. Kramer, Howard Community College's director of student/alumni arts, who is directing the play.
HCC student Michael Coleman stars as Merrick. Michael Avolio, a first-year HCC student, plays the befriending physician, Dr. Frederick Treves, and Marsha O'Neil Jenkins appears as Dr. Claire Gomm, the administrator in charge of the medical institution and Merrick's case. Donna Devilbiss plays Mrs. Kendal, the actress who helped bring elements of social interaction into Merrick's life.
Howard Community College Student/Alumni Productions presents "The Elephant Man" tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday and May 11-13 in Theatre Outback. Information: 410-772-4900.