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Political chaos takes center stage in USC’s ‘Animal Farm’

(l-r): Corey Robinson as Moses, Libby Hawkins as Napoleon, and Nicolas Stewart as Boxer
(l-r): Corey Robinson as Moses, Libby Hawkins as Napoleon, and Nicolas Stewart as Boxer Provided photo

Political corruption. Greed. Pushing agendas. Totalitarian oppression.

These are the crooked building blocks to Sir Peter Hall’s musical stage adaptation of George Orwell’s timeless parable “Animal Farm,” opening Friday, April 14 at the University of South Carolina’s Drayton Hall Theatre.

As the story goes, the animals at Manor Farm band together to chase off all the humans, learning to manage the farm and themselves. The pigs assume leadership, and quickly their utopia begins to self-destruct, descending into a classic political allegory.

Professor Stan Brown directs a cast of graduate and undergraduate actors who he says give strong, present and committed acting performances.

“I think the story, adapted from the book, remains relevant,” he said. “The book ‘Animal Farm’ remains in the top 10 books included – and banned – from school curriculums.”

Libby Hawkins, an MFA acting candidate at USC, plays Napoleon, the meanest piggy of them all. In preparation for the role, Hawkins said she researched dictators for motivation and hogs and pigs to figure out movement.

Kimberly Braun, another MFA acting candidate, plays Snowball, the pig who opposes Napoleon. She describes the production as beautiful and haunting.

“The abuse of power, ostracizing of the good and subservience to the corrupt Napoleon, show the threats of ignorance and groupthink,” she said. “The animals get in line with Napoleon’s commands and Squealer’s propaganda.”

Kaleb Edley, another MFA acting candidate, plays Squealer, Napoleon’s right-hooved man. He said the story is another example of how easily good intentions or ideas can become corrupted.

“The idea that we’re all equal – but I’m just a bit more equal than you – is something we can see in our world daily,” he said. “I hope the audience sees how even something that sounds wonderful can get corrupted if there’s no checks or if we blindly follow. It’s a definite lesson in not just accepting the story you’re told, but really seeking out the truth.”

Nicolas Stewart, a first-year MFA candidate, plays “Boxer,” the cart horse. He said this was the show he was most excited about this season.

“The ideologies carried throughout the play of totalitarianism and democracy and the environment of the Manor Farm is terrifying to think of, because it is so identifiable with what we still see in the world today. This story will always be relevant.”

If you go

“Animal Farm”

WHERE: Drayton Hall Theatre, 1214 College St.

WHEN: Friday, April 14-Saturday, April 22

COST: $18, general public; $16, seniors, military and university faculty and staff; $12, students

INFO: (803) 777-2551