Side effects of '1984' may include increased awareness and contemplation

Michel Elben
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Kalene Chmura, a cast member of Carroll Community College’s “1984,” doesn’t think anyone will love the show.

“Love isn't the right word (and anyone who sees the show will understand why),” Chmura wrote in an email. “This show doesn't want love. It wants attention. It wants you to wake up and smell the coffee. It wants you to look at yourself and the world, see what you're doing wrong and change the world before it's too late. It doesn't matter what sort of person you are, where you come from, what side of the political spectrum you're on. If you identify as a human, you need to see this show … just leave the little ones at home.”

Carroll Community College students will present George Orwell’s “1984,” adapted by Michael Gene Sullivan and with special permission from Playscripts INC., Feb. 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. in the Scott Center Theater.

The play, directed by Jane R. Frazier, is described as a ferocious and provocative adaptation of one of the most prescient works of literature of the last century. Physically and mentally under the omnipresent eye of Big Brother, Winston has been caught struggling for scraps of love and freedom in a world awash with distrust and violence. With the brutal “help” of five Party Members, Winston is forced to confess his Thoughtcrimes before an unseen inquisitor, and the audience – who acts as a silent witness to his torture.

“Whether the audience knows the novel or not, this show is going to relate to some part of their lives,” Frazier said. “I hope it stimulates the mind and stimulates conversation. I believe through dialogue we truly come to understand ourselves and others. Our job isn’t to tell you what to think but to make you think.”

Costume designer Nicholas Hartman said the show teaches the audience to look at things from both sides.

“It teaches us to look at the paths we take and who is on that path with us,” Hartman said.

Chmura explained that in Sullivan's adaptation, the events of the story are not happening in real time, but rather, a group of inner party members will be reenacting the events during Winston's interrogation and will assume the roles of characters in Winston's life.

“It's sort of like a play within a play,” Chmura wrote. “This means there are several layers of emotion we feel and objectives we are working toward at any one moment, and oftentimes the layers conflict with each other. It can be grueling, emotionally draining, and even confusing for us.”

Cast member Mallory Kohn said she was challenged by the dissimilarity of her character to herself. Kohn said she tends to perform in musicals and “‘1984’ is so different from anything I’ve done before,” she said.

“My character isn’t the nicest so it was it a bit of a challenge to pull out the aggression of the character,” Kohn said. “There’s a lot of emotional points in the show and it really takes a lot of concentration to present it to the audience.”

Chmura warns not to come in expecting a staged version of the novel.

“I find the book tame compared to this show,” she wrote. “This show does not censor or sugarcoat itself. It does not care if the audience is squirming in their seats; in fact, it relishes it. And don't expect your typical experience as an audience member, safe in your seat with a distinct separation from the action happening on stage. You'll find the lines becoming blurred between audience and stage, between your reality and ours.”

Kohn said she thinks the show will “make people think about what they do.”

“Side effects of ‘1984’ may include paranoia and hypervigilance,” Chmura wrote. “Audience members may find they keep their radios turned off on the drive home (is Big Brother listening in?). How long have they had all these cameras hanging above the traffic lights? Just how far off is Orwell's world from our own?”

If You Go

When: Feb. 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.

Where: Scott Center Theater, 1601 Washington Rd., Westminster

Cost: $10 adults, $5 for senior citizens and CCC students and faculty/staff with ID. Intended for mature audiences only.

The box office will open 45 minutes before curtain. House will open 20 minutes before curtain. For more information, email or call 410-386-8575


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