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Sandy cast hopes to put their audience at their seat's edge

-  Play 'Elephant's Graveyard' tells a gripping and historic story


At a dress rehearsal Monday, May 12, not all cast members in Sandy High’s final show of the year were in full costume, but everyone was in character.

On Friday, May 16, Sandy High drama students will open “Elephant’s Graveyard” by George Brant.

“I think it’s a fascinating piece of theater,” said drama teacher Chris Harris, not wanting to give away too much of the story. “As a drama teacher, it’s not all the time that you have a play you love and the right group of kids to do it.”

The play is a drama based on the true story of Spark’s circus in 1916, when a circus performance went horribly wrong and the event only worsened during a town’s outraged reaction.

More than 20 cast and crew members have been working on the production for four weeks. “For this one we had to hit the ground running,” said senior Sam Helzer, who portrays the ringmaster.

Harris said the piece has a unique structure, which is part of what drew him to it. Instead of being purely a play of dialogue, much of the story is delivered in monologues, with the actors addressing the audience.by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Drama students hope audiences will appreciate the elaborate set and dynamic layout of their newest play.

“They are the characters, yet they are the storytellers,” he said. “And every now and then they interact with each other.”

“It’s very presentational,” Helzer said.

Junior Ruben Garza, who plays the marshal, said the format of the play reminds him of reading a book encouraging audience members to use their imaginations.

Performed without an intermission, “Elephant’s Graveyard” is a sort of long one-act play, Harris said.

With its elaborate set and open-for-interpretation script, Harris said this production has created a lot of opportunities for students to push themselves, both in engineering an interactive set and providing music.

All the music throughout the show is performed by two people: drummer Joey Ten Eyck and guitarist Riley McCord.

The script called for a song to be played twice throughout the show, and while words were provided, music was not. After watching YouTube videos depicting the genre of music the script demanded — Piedmont blues — Harris encouraged McCord to write the music to accompany the words.

Although McCord didn’t think he could do it at first, Harris said, he came up with something wonderful.

For Garza, the most challenging part of the play has been the dialects that each actor must learn.

“Basically the entire cast has tried to correct the grammar of the play,” Helzer said in agreement. by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Half the actors portray circus performers, the other half, the angered townspeople.

The play’s postcards advertise it with the statement, “’Elephant’s Graveyard’ questions how good people can, if only for a moment, turn into monsters; unleashing a deep-seated craving for spectacle, violence and revenge.”

Helzer said he is most looking forward to seeing the faces in the audience. “We really don’t know how they’re going to react,” he said.

“I want the show to make people sit on the edge of their seat,” said Garza.

The production is not recommended for children.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and runs May 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24 at the Black Box Theatre in Sandy High, 37400 Bell St.

As there is limited seating in the Black Box, call 503-668-8011, ext. 7313, for reservations.