George Orwell’s famous novel and colorful criticism of abusive power, “Animal Farm,” has come to life on the University of Maine’s very own Pavillion Theater stage. The revolution that was originally written by Orwell in 1945 is transformed into a one act play, complete with pigs, horses, traitors, two-legged enemies and political doctrines.
Directing the show is Alan Estes, a fourth-year student at UMaine. Since entering theater for the first time his junior year of high school, Estes has engrossed himself in any form of artistic expression. Throughout his time at UMaine, Estes has performed in over 20 plays, directed twice and worked as a technician in the scene shop of the theater department.
“This show has essentially changed how I view theater, because … it has told me that there are things that I can pay attention to that I may not have without this play,” Estes said. “Specifically, in the play there are a lot of things that you have to decide for yourself. The playwright gives you a sentence of stage direction that tells an entire story, so when the animals revolt, I have to be the one to make the revolution. It’s told me a lot about how I work and how I want things to be created, visionary wise.”
The plot of “Animal Farm” follows the animal occupants of a small farm in England, as they revolt against their human oppressors and establish their own political regime. The pigs, one group of animals who reside at this farm, quickly place themselves in power by claiming the role of most intelligent animal and ruling over the other farm animals with a set of commandments first stated by brief character Old Major in the prologue of the play. Throughout the play, those commandments are altered as the pigs take more and more power for themselves and begin to kill off any who challenge them.
This abuse of power is portrayed through the manipulation of the working animals on the farm, convincing them that what they have seen or used to believe is incorrect, and that the Commander Napoleon, leader of the farm is always right, no matter what.
“[The play] follows pretty tightly the plot in which Orwell has described in his novel, specifically with quotes that he actually used, because in ‘Animal Farm’ … he likes to have [the animals] speak for themselves,” Estes said. “It’s very poetic that he wrote that and now it’s being adapted into a play in which they can use those words that Orwell actually wrote.”
Actors throughout the show take on new roles as their old characters are banished or killed, and progress the story through a series of meetings, executions and inter-character discussions. The audience is confronted with the fast-paced nature of the show and have no time to escape the messages being portrayed.
The show features eight actors, some playing two, three or even four characters throughout the show. The students participating come from various backgrounds. While many of those that audition and historically receive roles in shows are theater majors, this show also has students studying a range of fields such as engineering, nursing and media studies.
“The play itself for me, speaks not only to the power of storytelling and how we can immerse ourselves into something so unbelievably magical in such a real way and I think that the issues that are going on in our world are best represented through the ways that the people are affected within the play,” Estes said.
The show opened Oct. 19 and will run through Oct. 28 with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m., Sunday shows at 2 p.m., and a Thursday, Oct. 25 matinee at 10 a.m. Tickets are $10 at the door or free with a MaineCard and can be found at the box office or at the School of Performing Arts website.