When The Animals Take Over

Arts Live tackles challenge of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’

Posted: January 21, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Director Jules Taylor says her talented cast is working on “suggesting” the nature of the animals they portray on stage.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others," reads the most famous line from the novel "Animal Farm," George Orwell's 1945 attack on Stalinism. Beginning Jan. 25, Arts Live is tackling this lively, allegorical tale that details what happens when farm animals wrestle control of a farm from its human owner. Director Jules Taylor says it's long been one of her favorites.

"I'm a huge fan of the book, since I was in high school," she says. "I knew the story really well, and I thought the serious subject would be an interesting challenge to bring to Arts Live and perform with young people."

FAQ

‘Animal Farm’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Jan. 25-27; 2 p.m. Jan. 27-28

WHERE — Arts Live Theatre, 818 N. Sang Ave. in Fayetteville

COST — $7-$10

INFO — 521-4932

Taylor says that, despite the heavy themes of power and leadership, Arts Live's young actors have had no problem tackling the deep message of the play.

"We definitely have spent a lot of time talking about the play and what's happening in it and the emotional parts of it," says Taylor. "We've just really delved into the specific analogy of this script, comparing the political and social aspect of the subject. I haven't had any trouble with any of the kids understanding it. It's a universal story: A group of people works together toward the same dream, which works for a while, until someone in the group starts getting a little greedy, gets a little more power and starts taking over."

With actors playing the farm animals, Taylor says part of that challenge has been finding subtle ways to suggest the animals without distracting from the plot of the show.

"Of course, we're not playing this like stereotypical animals, where they're walking on all fours or making sounds instead of words," says Taylor. "We take the animal and give them subtle personification. The kids have done an amazing job, and our acting coach, Natalie Lane, has been a great help with it. They've had to incorporate physicality that suggests their animal and, maybe, find one sound that suggests their animal."

This challenging choice is evidence, says Taylor, that Arts Live uses theater as a teaching tool for kids of all ages.

"Theater as a whole has a great power to teach on all levels," she says. "We have all ages of kids here, so we can do some really light material. But we want to challenge the older kids, too. Some of them are 13 years old, and they've done more theater than I have at this stage of their lives. So I really enjoy challenging them, pushing them. It's always exciting to give our older kids something to really sink their teeth into."

Which is not to say that this particular adaptation by British director and teacher Ian Wooldridge is not accessible to younger ages, as well.

"We've softened up the story a little bit, because it's a really violent story," says Taylor. "We've found this really lovely adaptation -- it's a beautiful adaptation -- and we've softened it so that it's not as harsh as the novel but [is] still an excellent retelling of the story. I think the younger kids in the audience might lose some of the content, but they'll be able to follow and comprehend most of the story."

NAN What's Up on 01/21/2018