If all circuses stopped using animal performers, Lynette Borrelli-Glidewell would be a very happy woman.
The Modesto Junior College theater instructor is directing a production of George Brant's 2008 tragedy, "Elephant's Graveyard," Nov. 30 through Dec. 9 in an attempt to convince others to boycott circuses with animal performers.
The play centers on the shocking, true-life death of a circus elephant in 1916 in a tiny town in Tennessee.
The elephant is never seen on stage and the story is told through the memories of the people who witnessed it.
The style of the play is similar to "Laramie Project," about the murder of a young gay man in Wyoming, which MJC presented several years ago.
"It's a story about people's need for spectacle trading your humanity for spectacle and money," Borrelli-Glidewell said.
She discovered the play during her recent maternity leave and was moved to tears by the story. She was reviewing several plays at the time, but this one stuck with her. She knew she would have to present a production.
As a twist, nobody in the play is named except the elephant, who is known as Mary.
Phillip Azevedo, who plays the ringmaster, said it's hard to play his role because it's such a despicable character. The ringmaster views elephants as merely an investment.
"Everything is about the bottom line," he said. "He doesn't care about anything except money."
Joshua Palafox, who plays the elephant trainer, is more comfortable with the views of his character. He believes elephants don't belong to one person but to everybody, and he doesn't think they should be mistreated.
The lesson of the play is to pay attention and be informed, said Paige Jenkins, who plays a young townsperson.
"Don't be naive," she said. "Don't just follow the crowd."
Borrelli-Glidewell has done a lot of research on incidents of circus elephant abuse and will make it available at performances.
Just last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined Field Entertainment, which produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus $270,000 for abusing elephants.
Actor Alec Baldwin recently shot a YouTube video showing incidents of elephant abuse and urging people not to attend circuses with animal performers.
Borrelli-Glidewell realizes that this may be difficult subject matter for some to take, but she thinks it's worth it. "We can't always tell happy stories," she said. "It's a true story."
WHAT: Modesto Junior College's "Elephant's Graveyard"
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-8 and 2 p.m. Dec. 9
WHERE: Modesto Junior College little theater, 435 College Ave.
TICKETS: $10 general, $8 students and seniors 62 and older
CALL: (209) 575-6776