Elephant’s Grave­yard, a play based on the real-​​life hanging of an ele­phant in the early 1900s, opens on Tuesday at the Studio The­atre. It is the Depart­ment of Theatre’s first pro­duc­tion of the aca­d­emic year.

The play debuted in Texas in 2007 and fea­tures an ensemble cast of 15 char­ac­ters. “We in the the­atre depart­ment always want to give stu­dents as many oppor­tu­ni­ties as pos­sible,” said director Brian Fahey, a lec­turer in the Depart­ment of The­atre and a North­eastern alumnus. “Having a cast that size is really great for a uni­ver­sity production.”

Elephant’s Grave­yard was written by George Brant, a play­wright whom Fahey met at grad­uate school at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas. It is based on the true tale of the only known hanging of an ele­phant. Set in 1916 Erwin, Tenn., a local circus and the town col­lide after the circus’ ele­phant kills its han­dler. The ele­phant, Mary, is ulti­mately hanged by the neck from a crane at a rail­road yard.

First and fore­most, it’s a really com­pelling story,” Fahey explained. “It also speaks to top­ical issues that deal with America’s obses­sion with jus­tice and vio­lence and spec­tacle and revenge, sub­jects that feel really rel­e­vant now.”

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Cast mem­bers Dario Sanchez, the ring­master, and Rachael MacAskill, the ballet girl, noted that the char­ac­ters often speak directly to the audi­ence, a rarity in a the­atrical pro­duc­tion. “I think it is really inter­esting how it’s directed at the audi­ence in an interview-​​like style,” said MacAskill, a fifth-​​year com­bined major in the­atre and his­tory. “There is not a lot of dia­logue but there is a lot of story telling. It’s a way to relate to the audi­ence on a dif­ferent level.”

Rehearsals started on Sept. 8, exactly one month before opening night. Sanchez, a first-​​year com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major, char­ac­ter­ized the rehearsal schedule as demanding yet thrilling. “With the hectic rehearsal period, you sort of find those moments when you don’t need the script any­more and it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s more dynamic and action packed.”

In addi­tion to the cast mem­bers, Fahey said dozens of other stu­dents and fac­ulty mem­bers are working on the pro­duc­tion. Many are helping build sets, design props, or pre­pare other tech­nical com­po­nents of the performance.

It’s a learning lab­o­ra­tory for these stu­dents,” Fahey noted. “Every­thing from stage man­age­ment to design to per­for­mance. It show­cases the strengths of the department.”

The production’s two-​​week run com­prises 12 per­for­mances, which Fahey said will give the stu­dent actors the chance to settle into a rhythm and have their work viewed many times.

Tickets are avail­able at neu​.uni​ver​si​tyt​ickets​.com. For more infor­ma­tion, please call 617.373.2245.