Stage Door Repertory Theatre’s must-see production of Bernard Pomerance's “The Elephant Man” is a passion project for Mark Rosier and his best friend, Rose London, who directed him in the title role. I asked them to talk about the show, which runs through June 7 in Anaheim. (Call 714-630-7378 for tickets).
JY: I think where the production and performance most succeeds is in its humanity—the way it humanizes John Merrick.
RL: I agree; I think that for me this production allows Merrick to develop his dignity and a sort of adulthood. It was my goal to, hopefully, permit us to travel with him and experience the joys and the pitfalls of that growth.
MR: For me this play was always about the quest for John Merrick's dignity. It was important for me to capture an array of emotions… pain, sadness, anger, humor and ultimately ownership of one's soul.
JY: Mark, how did you conceive the character?
MR: I really strove to create a well-rounded character whose spirit broke through his body intensely. I wanted to have a distinct way of speaking since the script referred to Merrick's mouth as a wide slobbering aperture. My objectives were to speak with a slurred speech, speak with some semblance of a British accent and most importantly remain to speak with as much clarity as possible.
JY: Rose, what was your concept for the production?
RL: My concept was to introduce the flavor of a freak show into the lobby and theater a bit to induce the audience to view the play, and perhaps their lives, as something set apart. I wanted people to leave the theater questioning their choices and beliefs in life, hoping perhaps by reviewing their decisions they will allow for doubt.
JY: What was the biggest surprise or discovery you made in rehearsal?
RL: My greatest discovery was that my friend, Mark, has the heart of a lion and is relentless in the pursuit of excellence.
MR: The biggest discovery throughout this rehearsal process was in all honesty I underestimated the emotions it would take to bring this character to life. It was a struggle at times to go to the dark places I needed to, to give this character as much realism as I could; I dealt with a temporary depression but it was ultimately worth it.
JY: What’s the most challenging aspect of working with your bestie?
RL: There really wasn’t a challenge as Mark and I have been friends for years, and we communicate well. I knew that he would give me all that I asked for, and more. He surpassed my dreams.
MR: Working with Rose was only challenging in the sense that I wanted to take my level of performance to a height that I never had before because it was important for me to make sure she was as pleased as possible. I may have not understood in the moment some of the things she had asked of me but once I took a step back and was able to look at the big picture, her direction took my performance to a level that I will always look back and be proud of. I can honestly say I gave this endeavor everything I could have and I feel it is the best creative work I have done. Rose is a big reason for that.
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