Students bring drama of 1984 to life


Donna Stuckert Graham

MHS Thespians put on the drama 1984 this weekend. Sunday’s final performance is at 2 p.m..

The fall play is traditionally more light-hearted featuring fairy-tales and comedies, but this year, the students tackled more heavy-hitting material with their adaptation of the novel 1984.

“This year’s play is more of a morality lesson,” Mr. Tom Mackey, the director, said, adding that he thinks the play will make a strong impression on audiences. 

“I think visually speaking, they’re going to be very impressed by what we’re presenting on stage with all the different design choices that the students are making. And secondly, I think the message of the show is one that is going to stick with them for a while and hopefully it will influence them for years to come.”

Merrillville High School performed 1984 in early November. This story takes place in 1984 in Oceania, a totalitarian state in which all resources and citizens in society are controlled by the government. In this case, Oceania is controlled by the Party and it has brainwashed the population into pledging obedience to their leader “Big Brother.”

Mr. Mackey describes the play as an abridged version of the 300-page book written by George Orwell.

“There’s so much that happens in the original story that doesn’t take place on stage but at the same time, has some of the same elements,” he said. “So, it’s really hard to describe the show other than to say it is a cautionary tale about sacrificing our freedoms to maintain our comfort.”

Not only are students a part of this Fall’s play. Freshman Principal Tim James and Mr. Jason Sonnenberg, an English teacher, also have small roles.

“They are playing two characters that only show up briefly in the play, but they are the main drivers of the conflict in the play,” Mr. Mackey said. “They are sort of the catalyst for all of the drama that is taking place on stage.”

Senior Precious Moore stars in the lead role as the rebellious Julia. 

“Basically the place sets up one government, and you have to follow a set of rules, except she doesn’t,” Moore said. “She acts as if she likes it, but in reality she doesn’t.”

This is the first lead role for Moore. 

“What I like about my role is honestly the character itself,” she said. “I feel like I can kind of relate to her when I rehearse. Last year was one of my first plays and I was an understudy for both of the roles. So this year, me being the lead  is really rewarding.”

Moore enjoys how she feels when she is on stage.

“It’s really like a refreshing feeling. I would say like, at first last year, even being an understudy and being on there for like, five minutes. It was just like, really nerve racking. But now it’s just, it feels great. The attention is on you. And then you do what you like to do. So, it’s fun.”

The language has provided the biggest challenge for Moore.

“It’s just because of the time period of the play,” she said. “It’s not a different language, but the way they speak is really different. So you know, learning that has been the most difficult for me.”

Junior Terry Thomas is tackling another main role, Winston Smith. 

“He’s an old man and he kind of rebels against the party a lot,” Thomas said. “I like the main role of his character because he’s ambitious. He sees that there’s a fault in the system and he tries his best to rebel against it.”

Playing an older character can be challenging, Thomas admits.

“Trying to play his role you can’t be as energetic because he’s older,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest challenge.”

Both students are enjoying the chance to work more closely with Mr. Mackey.

“This year having a bigger role, I get more time with him,” Moore said. “How he thinks and the way he directs is really interesting.”

Like Moore, Thomas enjoys Mr. Mackey’s unique teaching skills.

“He always has a vision that I would never be able to see,” Thomas said. “Even though we’re doing something that may be really hard or like struggling with something, he can talk me, or the other students, through it and get us to the right state of mind that makes a lot more sense.”

Senior Anisa Newman stars as Julia’s understudy in this year’s play.

“What I like about my role is that I feel similar to the character,” she said. “She’s really childish, which is funny to act out.”

The cast has been rehearsing the play since early September, and it is a huge time commitment with a minimum of four days a week for about three hours per rehearsal. Despite the commitment, rehearsals are one of the things Newman enjoys most about the play. 

“Rehearsals are really fun,” she said. “We’re all trying to work toward one goal of getting the play done and having it nice and stuff.”

Thomas enjoys the thrill of being onstage

“I get stage fright every time,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for too long but it’s just one of those things you just can’t get rid of. I’ve gotten so much stage fright it’s almost become nostalgic. It’s like I’m so scared to do this but at the same time, it’s going to be so fun.”