Imagine a world where people cannot speak freely, where leaders are not held accountable, where constant war rages against an unseen enemy.
Welcome to 1984, George Orwell’s prescient portrait of an oppressive, totalitarian society. In February, The Actor’s Gang — the experimental Los Angeles troupe led by artistic director Tim Robbins — will present a new stage adaptation of Orwell’s dystopic classic at Washington University’s Edison Theatre.
Performances, sponsored as part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series, begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16 and 17. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are $30; $25 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children. Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets.
This production contains brief, partial nudity and strong language. For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or visit http://edisontheatre.wustl.edu/.
Originally titled “The Last Man in Europe,” 1984 tells the story of Winston Smith (Brent Hinkley), a London functionary for the government of Oceana, one of three sprawling regimes that dominate the globe. Though Winston works for the tyrannical Ministry of Truth, he secretly flirts with independent thinking, i.e. “thoughtcrime.” Even more dangerously, he falls in love with the rebellious, promiscuous Julia (Kaili Hollister), yet the couple’s brief affair is soon uncovered and both are sent to the Ministry of Love for “reprogramming.”
“I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is a satire) that something resembling it could arrive,” wrote Orwell (a pen name for Eric Blair) shortly after the book’s release, in 1949. “I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences.”
The Actor’s Gang production is directed by Robbins and based on a script by Michael Gene Sullivan, head writer for the Tony Award-winning Mime Troupe in San Francisco.
“I was so excited by his framing of the story, his ability to make the material resonate,” Robbins recalls. He was also “floored by its relevance, its insight, its warnings, and unfortunately realized that this book was more vibrant and necessary now than it had ever been.
“What Orwell is talking about is totalitarianism of the mind, where free will and free thought is viewed as a threat to the overall safety of the state,” Robbins adds. “The citizens of all nation states readily comply with the wishes of the state however compromising it is to their personal freedom because of the danger they perceive that they are in.
“Big Brother rules through fear,” Robbins concludes. “Big Brother provides no vision of the future other than a promise of ultimate victory and perpetual war.”
Robbins co-founded The Actor’s Gang in 1982 — the same year he made his professional screen debut on television’s St. Elsewhere. The company is dedicated to creating bold, original and socially relevant works for the stage as well as daring reinterpretations of classic works.
Over the years, The Actor’s Gang has proven itself one of Los Angeles’ most enduring ensembles. They have won more than 100 awards and produced over 70 plays, ranging from Shakespeare, Moliere and Chekhov to new works by Robbins, Eric Bogosian, Danny Hoch and others.
Edison Theatre’s OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis. Focusing on presentations that are interdisciplinary, multicultural and/or experimental, Edison Theatre presents work intended to challenge, educate and inspire.
Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis.
WHO: The Actor’s Gang
WHAT: 1984, directed by Tim Robbins
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16 and 17
WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
TICKETS: $30; $25 for seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff; $18 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
SPONSOR: Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series
INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543 or edisontheatre.wustl.edu