University of South Carolina Theatre Stages ANIMAL FARM Next Month
Show times are 8pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays, with an additional 3pm matinee on Saturday, April 22. Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors (60+) and $18 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, April 7. Drayton Hall Theater is located at 1214 College St.
Sir Peter Hall's much-acclaimed stage adaptation, featuring songs by composer Richard Peaslee and lyricist Adrian Mitchell, brilliantly brings to the stage Orwell's dystopian allegory about a political uprising that leads to totalitarian oppression. As in the classic novel, the animals of Manor Farm band together to overthrow their two-legged masters, and create a world where "all animals are equal." Their utopia is short-lived, however, as a group of pigs conspire to prove that "some are more equal than others." "[The play] is filled with insights that remain sadly current... A tribute to the enduring power of a noble work." - The New York Times
Professor Stan Brown is directing the production, which he says is ultimately an argument for the power of personal choice.
"Because the allegory is specifically about the Russian revolution, moving from Czarist Russia into Communism, the lower class animals are forced to give up their individuality and confirm to collectivism. Ultimately those who do try to hold onto their individuality are punished," says Brown. "People making personal choices, driven by their personal preferences, regardless of what the government does or how the government looks, that's incredibly important to this play."
He adds, "One of my mentors told me that every war that's ever been fought has been about trying to exert sameness. There's never been a war fought promoting diversity."
A cast of graduate and undergraduate actors will embody Manor Farm's mostly non-human residents, who Brown says will be portrayed in a way that suggests "the human animal."
"There are some productions of Animal Farm in which actors are both costumed and attempt to imitate animals. In others, actors remain human in their behavior and wear street clothes," says Brown. "I'm not interested in creating a literal animal. What I've told the actors is to do animal studies as if they are playing human characters whose behavior is based on the animal they're portraying."
Valerie Pruett, a costume design instructor in the theatre program, is designing the animal costumes, which range from the plain, drab looks of the animal "proletariat" to more decorated and debauched styles for the beasts of the ruling class.
Scenic design for the production, created by design professor Nic Ularu, is described by Brown as "a mixture of farm meets concentration camp." In addition to physical structures, the show's locations will be built with animated projections, created alongside Ularu by students Noah Valentim and Chandler Kellogg.
Two special guests artists are part of the production's creative team. Steven Gross, a conductor and pianist who has worked on Broadway for such shows as Phantom of the Opera, Dreamgirls and Chicago, is musical director for the production. Genesis Garza, a professional lighting designer and assistant professor at North Greenville University, is creating the light design for the show.
Cast in the show are graduate students Kimberly Braun, Gabriella Castillo, Kaleb Edley, Kimberly Gaughan, Libby Hawkins, Darrell Johnston, Anna Percuoco, Donavon St. Andre, and Nicolas Stewart; undergraduate students Logan Davies, Marilyn Guy, Corey Robinson, Brooke Smith, and Noell Staton; and, theatre alumnus Sam Traquina.
"The timing of this production is totally accidental," says Brown, referencing how Orwell's classic tale may be relevant in today's tense political climate. He adds, however, that he's "not going to betray the theatrical process just to preach. Everyone should be able to make their own conclusions about where we are now."
Photo credit: Jason Ayer