When most people attend church they expect to hear stories of old, usually from Biblical times over 2,000 years ago. But this weekend, visitors to The Sanctuary in Santa Clarita will watch and listen as a 200-year-old story will draw them into an experience both moving and unusual — the life of “The Elephant Man.”
This live stage performance of Bernard Pomerance’s play about “John Merrick,” whose real name was “Joseph Merrick,” is a way for the congregation to share their talents with the community. It is an emotional tale about a man who is horribly disfigured and through the efforts of a young doctor becomes a socialite in 19th century England. Show participants hope the performance provides food for thought, where it becomes more than just two hours of entertainment.
“You start off taking it in as a spectator, but the longer you’re in it and see it played out with the characters, to see this man horribly disfigured, you see yourself like him,” explained Jonathan Edwards, executive pastor at The Sanctuary. “Our disfigurement comes in different ways. But really, we all have challenges, things in our lives that are elements that we’re afraid of being judged or evaluated on.”
The Sanctuary was founded approximately 80 years ago in the Santa Clarita Valley. And for more than 15 years the congregation has brought plays and musical theatre to the community. Most recently, they produced “Fiddler on the Roof” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“What we’ve had a passion for is how we can present quality theatre … Santa Clarita has a lot of industry people and some families who just want to be a part of it,” Edwards said. “It’s a beautiful blending of professionals and volunteers.”
The director, Mark Henderson is an actor and professional set designer, and he is joined by other industry experts, from veteran actors to production crew.
“The reason why, as a church, we’ve done this is we want people to take in beautiful stories that leave you thinking about things and asking yourself great questions that ultimately help shape the listener and viewer to be better for it,” Edwards said. “Thinking, like ‘I want to treat people better. I want to be somebody who encourages people to be more vulnerable, more open.’ We loved that whole dynamic and what it could afford people today. It’s a story of old, but 100 percent applicable today.”
Performances are May 19-21 at 7 p.m., with one matinee on May 20 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and may be purchased online at ElephantManPlay.com.
The Sanctuary Church is located at 26444 Friendly Valley Parkway in Santa Clarita.