Big Brother comes to Garden Theatre

The Central Florida premiere of the stage adaptation of “1984” will open at the Garden Theatre March 1 and run until March 17.

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  • | 5:27 p.m. February 27, 2019
Brian Zealand is cast as protagonist Winston Smith.
Brian Zealand is cast as protagonist Winston Smith.
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George Orwell’s dystopian classic will be coming to life in Winter Garden this weekend.

The Garden Theatre’s production of “1984” opens Friday, March 1, and will run until March 17. 

“It’s one of those iconic pieces that everyone has at least read or knows a little bit about,” said Stephen Lima, who is cast for the role of O’Brien. “The play is relatively new.”

Stephen Lima will be playing the role of O'Brien
Stephen Lima will be playing the role of O'Brien

The play adaptation of “1984” portrays the same dystopian society Orwell envisions in his book. The theater’s production will be the Central Florida premiere of the play, which follows a successful run on Broadway. The story tells of an oppressed society controlled by a totalitarian government that uses brainwashing, propaganda, constant surveillance and torture to keep its subjects in line. 

Winston Smith is the story’s protagonist, and the role of Winston will be played by Brian Zealand. When he saw that the Garden Theatre was going to be producing “1984,” he knew he had to be part of it. 

“When I saw the listing for ‘1984,’ I was immediately interested and was fortunate enough to be cast in the role (of Winston),” Zealand said. “In a wonderful, theater-rich community like we have, the competition is high, so I was fortunate enough to be deemed worthy of this (role). … It’s not so much about the character. I feel like I would have been happy to have been involved with this production in any way. It’s about the production, it’s about the point (of ‘1984’) and it’s about the timing of it.”

Zealand added that much of the aspects of the story of “1984” can be reflected in today’s society. Examples of the story’s portrayal of constant surveillance, telescreens, doublethink and doublespeak can be seen in today’s political climate, he said.

“As far as the timing goes, I feel like we are in a political climate … that is tense and outrageous,” Zealand said. “This particular piece of theater — ‘1984’ — is not out, I don’t think, to force an opinion … one way or the other. It’s out to just put a mirror up. You need to look at it. You need to look at yourself and you need to look at the current situation and times. It’s not telling you how to think — it’s just making sure that you are thinking.”

Lima compared one concept from “1984” to something that people carry around on a daily basis: smartphones.

“The idea of telescreens everywhere watching you (is possible),” Lima said. “If you think about it, we now carry the telescreens with us. … It almost seems like the technology has caught up to Orwell’s vision.”

“Big Brother is in our pockets,” Zealand added. “Some of the crazy things that were imagined in this book … we made it. It’s not only, ‘What can be done.’ It is done.”

Capturing the essence of the society portrayed in “1984” and bringing it to life onstage is something that makes the Garden Theatre’s latest production unique. The infamous Big Brother makes his presence known onstage with numerous cameras that are set up around the theater for the show. Audiences will be able to watch scenes play out simultaneously as scenes will be played out both backstage and on stage. As scenes play out on stage, a camera will be catching another scene being played out backstage. The backstage scene will be shown on a screen above the stage will the onstage scene plays out.

“We have a bedroom backstage that they (characters) go into — so as an audience you don’t see them — but they’re being filmed and it’s being projected on a screen,” Lima said. “It’s a great concept because now the audience becomes Big Brother — they’re watching.” 


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