How do lies become truths? A Noise Within presents George Orwell’s savage satire, Animal Farm, directed by ANW co-artistic director Julia Rodriguez–Elliott. The acclaimed stage adaptation by the National Theatre’s Sir Peter Hall, which boasts music by Richard Peaslee and lyrics by Adrian Mitchell, opens A Noise Within’s 2022-23 season on September 3. Performances continue through October 2, with previews beginning August 28.
At once funny and frightening, delightful and devastating, Animal Farm charts the fall of idealism and the rise of tyranny after the animals of Manor Farm rise up against their oppressive human owner in a struggle for rights and equality. Led by the idealistic pig, Snowball (Stanley Andrew Jackson III), they take over the farm from the cruel Mr. Jones (Bert Emmett). Their plan goes well at first; all the animals—the horses (Geoff Elliott, Nicole Javier, Deborah Strang), goat (Philicia Saunders), donkey (Jeremy Rabb), cat (Sedale Threatt Jr.), raven (Cassandra Marie Murphy), cows, sheep, hens and pigeons—are equal and content. But eventually some of the pigs, led by Napoleon (Rafael Goldstein) and Squealer (Trisha Miller), yield to the lure of power and decide that “some animals are more equal than others.”
First published in 1945, Orwell wrote Animal Farm in reaction to Stalin’s rise to power following the Russian Revolution. But his allegory has continued to resonate across decades and up to the present moment.
“Audiences will love the theatricality of this piece,” says Rodriguez-Elliott. “There’s music, and wonderful costumes, and a lot of humor. It invites you in because it’s so entertaining. But then the reality of the animals’ situation—and of our own—sneaks up on you. The tactics employed by the pigs as they create a ‘tyranny of the minority’ are instantly recognizable: the simplistic slogans, the creation of perceived enemies, the fake news. With midterms taking place this fall, this play is once again über-timely. It’s a call to action.”
“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism,” wrote Orwell in an article called ‘Why I Write’. “Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.”
Time magazine chose Orwell’s book as one of the 100 best English-language novels written between 1923 and 2005. The novel was also listed as number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels, and number 46 on the BBC’s The Big Read poll. It won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 and is included in the Great Books of the Western World selection.
Originally produced by Britain’s National Theatre in 1984, Hall’s adaptation was so popular that it moved from the smaller Cottesloe Theater to the larger Olivier, and finally into the Lyttelton—the first, and possibly only, production to ever play all three auditoria at the National.
The creative team at A Noise Within includes music director Rod Bagheri; scenic and costume designer Angela Balogh Calin; wig and make up designer Tony Valdés; mask artisan Dillon Nelson; lighting designer Ken Booth; sound designer Kate Wecker; properties designer Shen Heckel; fight choreographer Kenneth R. Merckx, Jr.; dialect coach Andrea Odinov; and dramaturg Miranda Johnson-Haddad. The production stage manager is Pat Loeb.
Animal Farm marks the opening of A Noise Within’s 2022-23 “Daring to Love” season.
“The animals dare to revolt in order to become masters of their own fate,” Rodriguez-Elliott explains. “They are daring to dream of a better life, one in which they can love and take care of one another. But their dreams are thwarted by greed and by self-dealing and by thirst for power. And that reality runs through human existence. It’s not just politics.”
A Noise Within has been called “an oasis for those who love classic stories” by the Los Angeles Times and is a leading regional producer based in Pasadena, California. ANW’s award-winning resident company is committed to representing the entire community at its state-of-the-art, 324-seat performance space. In addition to producing world-class performances of classic theater, the organization runs robust education programs with the goal of inspiring diverse audiences of all ages. ANW believes in working hard on its anti-racist practice across the whole organization. By interpreting its mission to fully engage audiences through community and artist-centered work in multiple creative disciplines, ANW is striving to be a theater that better serves the entire community.
Performances of Animal Farm take place September 3 through October 2 on Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no 2 p.m. matinee on May 14). There will be one additional performance, on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. (please note early curtain time). Four preview performances will take place on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, Aug. 31 and Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, Sept, 2 at 8 p.m.
Audiences are invited to attend a symposium with a noted scholar prior to the preview on Wednesday, Aug. 31, beginning at 6:45 p.m. (included in ticket price). Post-performance conversations with the artists will take place on Fridays, Sept. 9; Sept.16; Sept. 23; and Sept. 30, and on Sunday, Sept. 11 (included in ticket price). An INsiders Discussion Group will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 6 p.m.–8 p.m. on Zoom ($38 per individual or $45 per household). In addition, there will be 10 student matinees at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6; Wednesday, Sept. 7; Tuesday, Sept. 13; Wednesday, Sept. 14; Thursday, Sept. 15; Tuesday, Sept. 20; Wednesday, Sept. 21; Thursday, Sept. 22; Tuesday, Sept. 27; and Wednesday, Sept. 28. Interested educators should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets start at $25. Student tickets start at $18. Tickets to the preview on Thursday, Sept. 1 will be Pay What You Choose, with tickets starting at $5 (available online beginning at 12 p.m. the Monday prior to that performance). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
A Noise Within is located at 3352 E Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107.
To purchase tickets and for more information, including up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols on the date of each performance, call (626) 353-3100 or go to www.anoisewithin.org