‘Elephant Shavings’ –  Adventures In Ron Sossi’s Mind

By Ernest Kearney  —  There is no drama in this drama rather there is contemplation, the drama of which is divergence, and its catharsis in perception.

The “shavings,” in the title, refers to a tale of an aged Buddhist who has carved a beautiful wooden statue of an elephant.  When enquired about what the secret of his art is, the old man replies all he does is chip away everything that isn’t an elephant.

What he is left with is a beautiful figure of a pachyderm – and elephant shavings.

Writer/Director Ron Sossi has relentlessly paced the quarterdeck of the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Ahab-like, for the past 53 years in pursuit of artistic perfection, which is a far more elusive quarry than some oversized albino cachalot.

In his program notes, he reveals this production represents “over 60 years” of his spiritual quest and “draws 80% from true anecdotes and experiences.”

Hence, the setting is, appropriately, a theatre.  There is a director (Jack Green) and there are actors.  And there is a semblance of a plot, but in truth this is a frame for Sossi upon which to dangle his gems.

And gems there are.

Elephant Shavings, however, is not a crowd-pleaser, but I imagine Sossi would be a tad disappointed if it were.  It is less a show than a road map of a journey, one that Ron Sossi has traveled for many years, and now as a self-described “old codger with probably very little time left,” he wants to share with those who may seek as he sought, the vistas he has beheld and the roadside attractions he has passed. 

It is a paean to the quest for the genuine self.  As such it may have better served Sossi not to have tried to employ the structural confines of a conventional drama upon which to drape his “journey.” I longed for a ceremonial solemnity.  Elephant Shavings is not for everyone but for those who venture forth, “gems” and mustard seeds are scattered along the path.  Every journey is its own destination, and the one awaiting at the Odyssey is part Zen Koan, part parable, and all Ron Sossi. 

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Elephant Shavings

Written and Directed by Ron Sossi


the Odyssey Theatre

Every Saturday at 8pm
Every Sunday at 2pm
Friday on August 25, September 1, 8, 22, 29 & October 6 at 8pm


Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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