A story of strong Kansas women
According to Barton Theatre Director Erin Renard, the action takes place before a sod hut in the Kansas wilderness of the 1870s, where four frontier women wrest a living from the stubborn soil. The matriarch of the group is Maw, a feisty, resourceful survivor whose wanderlust is still strong and who inspires the others with her homespun wisdom and strength. With her are her daughter-in-law Sara, a hardworking young wife and mother who is content with life as she knows it; Etta, a young girl suffering the trauma of having been abducted by Cheyenne yet still optimistic that marriage and happiness may yet await; and Mrs. Nichols, a fastidious and refined Eastern lady forced to seek shelter with the others while her husband recovers from a critical illness. As they cope with wolf attacks, the constant fear of Indians, and the dismal isolation of the prairie, they talk of “going to see the elephant” – crossing the next hill to see what lies on the other side—and it is this sense of striving to achieve all that life can offer that gives the play its power and beauty – and makes it clear that the wilderness was not tamed by men alone.
Paige Crocker, freshman in theater education, has known her destiny since seventh grade.
“I auditioned for my first show and I was hooked,” she said. “I just love the raw emotion I feel while acting. I felt like I could both be more myself and be another person, and I could make the audience believe and wonder… and make them dream.”
Crocker says she considers herself seasoned, but she said her role in “Going to See the Elephant” has been a fresh experience and a new challenge.
“I really like the message and emotion behind this play; it’s very dramatic and different from what I’ve done before,” she said. “I get to be the wise old woman, Maw. My message is to convince people it’s OK to chase your dreams and that you have to embrace your fears and learn from your mistakes.”
Crocker is one of four cast members in the play. She will be acting alongside Tasha Deiser, Lacey Hobbs and Alexis Mattheyer. The young women are joined by several classmates working behind the scenes as stage crew, including Caleb Rivera, Kolton Landreth, Alex Thisius, Jacob Dique, Isaiah Stierlen, Randyll Smith, Kara Grossfield and Zahara Harper. Faculty and staff involved are Director Erin Renard and Technical Director Leon Sobba.
Crocker said having a small cast and crew yields big benefits.
“I’m used to really big classes of theatre students, so having only a dozen people including stage crew is very different,” she said. “It’s great because we really get to know each other, and that helps us a lot as actors.”
“Going to See the Elephant” is slated for three show times at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-3 in the Barton Fine Arts Auditorium.
The play was created by Karen Hensel, Patie Johns, Elana Kent, Sylvia Meredith, Elizabeth Lloyd Shaw and Laura Tofffenetti, and is being presented with special permission by Dramatist Play Service, Inc.
All tickets are general admission. Ticket price is $7 at the door. Students are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 620-792-9391.