Live Theatre at SHC Returns with a Grim Tale of Dystopia

1984+rehearsal+in+the+Sister+Collins+Theatre

Ella Hartegensis Lloyd ‘23

1984 rehearsal in the Sister Collins Theatre

The 2013 play adaptation of George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, sparked controversy when it first hit the stage in London. Its brutal torture scenes and stage effects caused audience members to scream, vomit, and even pass out. 

While SHC’s production may not be as disturbing, the story it tells remains difficult to stomach. 1984 is a dystopian play that centers around Winston Smith and the controlling “Party,” the leaders of the country of Oceania, which monitors its citizens through their “telescreens” under the icon “Big Brother.” Oceania rewrites history, eliminates individuality, and punishes average people for thoughts contrary to the ideologies of this society, known as “thoughtcrime.” Winston forms a secret romantic relationship with his co-worker Julia, and we watch them rebel against Big Brother and try to take down the Party through a rebel group known as the “Brotherhood.”

 “1984 is an intense and powerful exploration of the concepts of control and manipulation, specifically in regards to their relationship with the complex human mind,” says Gavin Bermudez ‘23, who is portraying Winston Smith in the production. He calls the play “a challenge of the existence of metacognitive capabilities in a society where truth is a lie and lies are the truth, where mob mentality reigns supreme but it is not the people who possess control.” 

The original book by author George Orwell was published in 1948 — back when 1984 was years in the future — but it resonates today, more than 70 years later.  “I think at a time where we’re seeing this manipulation of government and people, this play could not be more relevant,” shares Mr. Morris, the director of the production. He thinks that the pandemic-induced mask requirement actually ties in nicely with the story, symbolizing the “silence of the people.” He’s excited to find more ways to develop the story and make it unique. 

The main message of 1984 still applies to a lot of the things we see in the news today. Countries are still run under dictatorships, innocent people are terrorized for their beliefs and thoughts, but we don’t talk about it enough. Power has been, and continues to be used to oppress others.”

— Grace Medecki '22

Assistant director Grace Medecki ‘22 agrees. She says that “[t]he main message of 1984 still applies to a lot of the things we see in the news today. Countries are still run under dictatorships, innocent people are terrorized for their beliefs and thoughts, but we don’t talk about it enough. Power has been, and continues to be used to oppress others.” 

This is SHC’s first in-person fall play since The Crucible, which was performed almost two years ago. A lot has changed since then because of COVID-19, but the cast and crew are excited to resume live theater. Cast member Kate Conti ‘22 says, “This show marks the return of something I know and love, something I think we’ve all missed dearly, so there’s a lot of nostalgia and gratitude as we return to the stage with friends, old and new!” She’s excited to be back with so many new people joining this year. Addison Brewer-Hay ‘24, who is stepping into the role of O’Brien, is acting in her first play at SHC and is excited to bring this energy into her character. In fact, 40% of the students who auditioned were freshmen, so there’s lots of new energy coming into the production. Mr. Morris plans to dive into the deeper meaning of 1984, saying that despite the story being over 70 years old now, the production will be set in a futuristic style. 

The production opens on November 5th, in less than two months, with a free after-school performance on Thursday, November 4th. The cast list was announced on September 4th, and rehearsals began on September 8th. The cast and crew are excited to get this story of manipulation and control on its feet and to continue doing what they love. 1984 continues to be relevant with its themes of abuse of power and thought manipulation within the general public, which can be tied to modern events happening in our world today. As Grace Medecki puts it, “The thing that makes our situation from 1984 different is that we have the power to change it and help others before it’s too late.”