Every theatrical production involves a lot of research, and the Dartmouth Department of Theater’s production of 1984 (February 16-25 in The Moore Theater) is no different. Theater professor Peter Hackett ’75 is directing an original adaptation of a radio play based on the famous novel, also incorporating passages from the 2017 New York Times #1 bestseller On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by historian Timothy Snyder. During rehearsals, students always have access to copies of both the novel and Snyder’s book.
The dramaturgy has involved more than books, however. In preparation for this production, the students in the 1984 cast met with Dartmouth visiting lecturer Mark Bray, a scholar of human rights, terrorism, and political radicalism in modern Europe. Bray is also the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook (2017), which looks at the far-left activist movement whose members advocate using any means necessary, including violence, to combat white supremacy. Bray became a sought-after news commentator after white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters at the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.
In a session with the actors, Bray spoke about 1984 and George Orwell. He discussed Orwell’s personal life and politics. Orwell was a self-described democratic socialist, but despised the Soviet Union, which is allegorized in the fascist state of the world in 1984.
In addition to providing key context about the novel, Bray led a discussion with the cast about the parallels between the novel and our current age. 1984 had a surge in popularity, both after Edward Snowden’s leaks, but more recently after Trump aide Kellyanne Conway coined the turn of phrase “alternative facts” in a television interview. The cast talked about the ways in which the digital age we live in contributes to the possibility of a surveillance state.
These ideas and more are likely to come up when Bray participates in a pre-show discussion with Hackett and Department of Theater Chair Laura Edmondson on February 17, 7 pm, in the Top of the Hop. The event is free and open to the public.