Curtain Call: Allegory in Action

From left; Clover (Sydney Lemmon), Boxer (Zach Bryant), Benjamin (Britian Seibert), and Squealor (Ian Kramer) in Animal Farm.

Allegory in Action

National Players multimedia adaptation of Animal Farm at Sem

A staple of English class reading lists, George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an open critique of Stalinism published in August 1945 when neither Britain nor the U.S. dared challenge Russia despite knowledge of gross atrocities because they required Soviet support to defeat Hitler. When World War II and the Cold War began, the book enjoyed a considerably greater success.
“Destructive Innocence” is the umbrella concept grouping Animal Farm with Romeo and Juliet on the National Players’ 64th tour. Founded in 1949 the company, based out of the Olney Theatre Center in Washington D.C., is considered America’s longest running touring theater company. Its presentation of Animal Farm at Wyoming Seminary’s Buckingham Performing Arts Center in Kingston on Friday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. is offered to the general public free of charge. A Q & A with the cast follows the performance.
Traveling through 40 states, the tour started in September and continues through May. A team of only eight actors performs in each show as directed by Jason King Jones*. Beyond entertaining and educating audiences in these literary works and their theatrical potential, the “dynamic and visceral productions” asks audiences to “re-examine their assumptions.” According to a promo on the Players’ website, each show “examine(s) the destructive potential within an innocent or naive choice.”
A video trailer for the play reveals figures in shadowy lighting creating the sort of percussive chanting that makes tedious labor pass with less drudgery; the kind one might hear along a chain gang or amongst cotton pickers at work. Projections of text are splashed upon a backdrop. We hear the book’s familiar commandments… Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. Etc.

Originally titled Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, Orwell’s playful satire follows pigs Snowball and Napoleon as they lead a revolution driving drunken Farmer Jones off the farm. “All animals are equal,” they decree. But Napoleon is intoxicated with power. He scapegoats Snowball for the natural destruction of windmills constructed to make the animals lives easier and begins purging the farm of animals who have consorted with Snowball. Snowball is inspired mainly by Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky but also, in part, by Stalin’s predecessor Vlaiamir Lenin. Napoleon is, of course, the play’s Stalin allegory. As he stockpiles power, he is increasingly corrupted by it. He rewrites history and takes on the characteristics of man. Eventually the commandments are amended. Yes, all animals are equal, but “some animals are more equal than others.”
For more information on the show, call 270-2192 or visit
*Appointed Director of Education of the National Players just this past October, director James King Jones may be familiar to local theatergoers as the director of The University of Scranton’s outstanding 2005 production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. A former Artistic Associate at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, he recently completed his MFA at Boston University and cites Peter Brook as his major influence.

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