March 27, 2005 – War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. These are the three dominant Party slogans of the super-state George Orwell created in his classic anti-Utopian novel, "1984." In this nightmarish world "Big Brother is watching you" all the time on telescreens that monitor every person's minutest actions and sounds.
Orwell's novel was published in 1949, following the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. Many critics hailed it as a possible portent of a hopeless future in which individuality and integrity have been lost and human beings have become soulless automations. Today, in a political climate of great fear and insecurity "1984" rather than representing a past that did not happen, seems more relevant than ever. There are deep concerns in the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example, over the loss of personal privacy and freedom following the national trauma of September 9/11.
In response to these concerns UVI professor Dennis Parker has chosen the only official adaptation of Orwell's famous novel as the Little Theatre's 2005 spring production. This rarely-produced theatrical adaptation was created by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr., and William A. Miles Jr. It is being produced by special arrangement with The Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, Illinois. The play will be performed on the St. Thomas campus at 8 p.m. April 1 through 4.
The cast includes Jeffrey Purcell as the central character, Winston Smith, and Monai Greene as his clandestine lover, Julia. Among other UVI students in the production are: William "Spike" Davis-McKean as Winston's confidante and betrayer, Charrington; Khalilah Gordon as the callisthenics instructor, and Ali Kareen as the voice of Big Brother.
Two UVI professors, Lynn Rosenthal (as the elusive rebel leader, Goldstein) and Douglas Ianucci (as an announcer), are also part of the show. Theatrical producer Jim Jester, in the role of the mysterious O'Brien, is a newcomer on the UVI stage. Retired teacher, Pat Hector, a veteran actor in UVI Little Theatre productions, plays the part of the singing washerwoman.
When asked about her pivotal role in the play, Monai Greene said, "It's a challenge. I have a lot of lines to learn. All of us who are students and also involved with the show still have to do our best to keep up with classes. But I really enjoy working with Professor Parker as the director and we have a great cast."
Parker concurs with Monai's appraisal of the cast. "The cast and crew are so talented and everyone cooperates. Rosary Harper, my long-time colleague and friend, is
doing a wonderful job, as usual, supervising publicity, theatre management and costumes. Doug Salisbury, my Technical Director, works wonders with lights and sound. It's shaping up to be a great show all around."
The use of technology as a means of control is a major theme of "1984," both in the original novel and in the novel's adaptation for the stage. "I've done my best to follow through with this theme in our UVI production," Parker explains. "But I don't want to give away any of the surprises I've planned for the audience. Let's just say this show is high-tech — and never boring."
Part tragic love story, part biting political commentary, George Orwell's fictive vision of a future bereft of beauty and meaning was his final masterpiece. His first major success, the modern beast fable titled "Animal Farm" deserves its enduring recognition but "1984" is even more powerful. As Parker states, "Probably no adaptation for the stage or screen can touch the complexity of the original novel. But the play is thought provoking and timely. Whether you've read the book or not I recommend you come to the show."
Tickets for the UVI production of 1984 are on sale now at Dockside Bookstore in Havensight, Nisky Pharmacy at Nisky Center, the UVI Bookstore, and the St. Thomas campus Humanities Division office. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students. Call 693-1340 for further information.