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‘1984’ in 2018: Frontier drama club putting on play based on Orwell classic about dystopian future

  • Frontier Regional School students rehearse Tuesday for their upcoming production of George Orwell’s “1984” at the school in South Deerfield, Tuesday. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier Regional School students rehearse Tuesday for their upcoming production of George Orwell’s “1984” at the school in South Deerfield, Dec. 4, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier Regional School students rehearse Tuesday for their upcoming production of George Orwell’s “1984” at the school in South Deerfield, Dec. 4, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Frontier Regional School students Eric Trueswell, left, and Phaelon Koski rehearse Tuesday for their upcoming production of George Orwell’s “1984” at the school in South Deerfield, Dec. 4, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2018

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Before “The Hunger Games,” there was “1984.”

George Orwell’s classic novel about a totalitarian government stands as arguably the gold standard for literature about dystopian futures and serves as a precursor for works like Suzanne Collins’ popular trilogy or “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner. It has been the basis of a movie and a play, the latter of which will be performed by the Frontier Regional School Drama Club on Friday and Saturday.

Club adviser David Peck said his young cast and crew have been working diligently to bring to life a world in which the few hold power over the many.

“They’re very interested in the subject matter,” he said this week. “There’s been a lot of interest from teachers – a lot of are giving extra credit (to students) for seeing the show.”

Peck said there are 10 students in the cast and six or seven working backstage.

The play tells the story of Winston Smith and Julia, the two protagonists who fall in love and decide to break free from the tyrannical grip of the English Socialist Party, which controls one of the three superstates in the play. Senior Eric Trueswell, 17, portrays Winston, while 16-year-old junior Mackenzie Pitittieri stars as Julia. The two teenagers said the play is especially relevant considering the country’s current political climate. This is of particular interest to Trueswell, who said he plans to major in political science in college.

The timeliness of the topic is also not lost on senior Phaelon Koski, who portrays O’Brien, the play’s main antagonist.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Dave chose it to be the show this year,” he said after rehearsing a scene on stage with his co-stars.

Peck said the play touches on hypersensitive topics such as torture and mind control. 

“Everything these people do during their daily lives is recorded on video screens in their homes and at work,” he said, adding that the fictional government actively rewrites history and crushes dissent. He said the line “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past” is a major sentiment of the fictional government, as is “War is peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”

Trueswell and Pitittieri said “the Party” tries to strip down language to its most basic with the idea that if you remove words from people’s vocabulary you can remove rebellious – and, therefore, dangerous — thoughts from their minds.

Peck said his perception that the Trump administration seems “to have it out for” journalists factored into his decision to select “1984.” He said the play’s fictional government works to convince people uniformity is in their best interest and deviation is bad.

Koski, 17, described O’Brien as a “textbook authoritarian trying to maintain the status quo” and said the play offers valuable lessons.

“Obviously, every society should be worried about coming to an authoritarian regime like this, where you can’t have any kind of independent thought,” he said.

The role of an antagonist is a different one for Koski, who said he typically plays protagonists such as Felix Unger in “The Odd Couple,” the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz,” and Philip Lombard in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” and a parody called “And Then There Was One.”

Peck mentioned the play consists of a torture scene toward the end, though the drama club does not it embellish it. He said “1984” will likely be of interest to anyone 11 and older. Tickets are $5 and available only at the door. The show begins at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.