Student-designed promotional posters advertised the well-attended Animal Farm.

Madeleine Voorhees

Drama turns political with Animal Farm

October 19, 2017

Most sophomores are required to read Animal Farm for English, and whether students love this story or struggle through it, there is no denying its political power.

At the end of October, the Northgate community experienced Animal Farm like never before when Production Workshop produced a theatrical adaptation of the George Orwell’s award winning fable in the Jack De Rieux Little Theatre.

The production also raised $2,700 for fire relief organizations, as guests were able to choose between purchasing a ticket or donating to those affected by the October North Bay wildfires that killed 42 and burned thousands of homes.

If you have yet to read Animal Farm or just need a recap, the basic premise is a complex allegory that reflects upon the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 preceding the Stalinist era. For the purpose of his tale, Author George Orwell sets the entire plot to unfold on a farm in England with various farm animals as the protagonists.

In order to incorporate its own artistic flare, Production Workshop’s version took place in California to ensure that words and references felt more familiar to audience members. The play still addressed themes pertinent to the story, including the rise of fascism, corruption of the elite, manipulation of others, and faults within socialism.

“This show is unlike anything we’ve done in Production Workshop before, and I think that’s what makes it so exciting,” remarked student Director Allyson Tayao, before the run.

When asked why he chose this play, drama teacher Jeff Hagerstrand connected the timeless classic to the current political atmosphere. “The Trump administration has piqued teenagers’ interest in politics in a way that I’ve never seen before because everyone is reacting so strongly to him,” Hagerstrand said. “This seemed like a perfect semester to take advantage of all that interest.”

Hagerstrand’s goal was to put on an enjoyable and inspirational play. “Our number one goal is always to entertain, but political theatre also has the purpose of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” explained Hagerstrand. He pointed out that political theatre has the power to “make the people who don’t feel represented represented, and the people who are overrepresented have to look in the mirror.” The general desire was for people to leave the Little Theatre with thoughts and questions weighing on their mind.

Despite Hagerstrand’s strong intentions, some Production Workshop students were anxious to see how their final product would turn out.

“I think, considering the political climate, it could be very interesting and informative. Our main objection is to put a mirror up to the audience and expose society’s flaws,” said Catherine Zadorozhna, set designer and performer for Animal Farm, before the run. “Though this play does involve a lot of technical challenges, that will be very interesting to handle and solve.”

Given the fact that every major character in the play is an animal, the technical aspect of this play was unique compared to previous Production Workshop performances, such as last year’s fall show,  The Laramie Project .

“Obviously, everyone is not human, so there’s a certain costume element to that. As well as making it seem lifelike and believable, and not everyone just dressed up in Halloween costumes,” stated Zadorozhna.

Although technical issues proved harder than usual, Production Workshop was enthusiastic about the challenge.“Our class has gone above and beyond to contribute their own spark of creativity involving sets, lights, acting, and even music this year,” Tayao said. “The play is definitely ambitious, but I think we’ve put in the effort to make it worth watching, and I hope Northgate thinks so, too,” concluded Tayao.

They did. “Although some scenes were omitted, I understood the play much more than the book,” sophomore Clemence Poret-Coirre said. “I also really enjoyed the music, and it was very creative.”

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