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Penn-Trafford High School Drama Guild will stage 'Animal Farm' next month

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, 12:30 p.m.
Cast members in the Penn-Trafford High School Drama Guild's production of 'Animal Farm' rehearse on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Cast members in the Penn-Trafford High School Drama Guild's production of 'Animal Farm' rehearse on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017.

The political significance of staging a story like George Orwell's “Animal Farm” is not lost on junior Jeffrey Backus.

“Especially in the era we're in now, this play really represents the fallacies of power,” said Backus, 16, who will play the lead character Napoleon, a pig who rises to power after a group of domesticated animals takes over an English farm after driving the farmer away.

“Showing something as dramatic as the Russian Revolution is really amazing,” Backus said.

The Penn-Trafford High School Drama Guild will stage the show, based on Orwell's 1945 allegorical novella, next month.

“It fits in so well with today,” said senior Abby Lanzelotti, who will play Clover, a horse who becomes wary of the pigs' scheming as they begin to exhibit human traits and subjugate their fellow farm animals.

Junior Angel Morante, 17, will portray Napoleon's partner and eventual enemy, a young pig named Snowball, and will also choreograph the show.

“It's not your average chip off the block,” Morante said of the play. “It's meant to scare your audience and send a message about abusing power.”

For director Tom Bekavac, it was about finding a way to get the most stage time for the 30 members of the cast.

“It's hard to find a play that utilizes a lot of people,” he said. “This is really an ensemble show. Everyone's on stage for most of the play.”

For older students with experience, it will be a chance to hone their craft, Bekavac said. For younger students, “keeping their focus on stage for 45 to 55 minutes helps them polish their skills,” he said.

The play is atypical in that it has a number of elements more closely associated with musicals, including the song “Beasts of England,” which the farm's animals learn leading up to their revolt against the drunken and irresponsible farmer Mr. Jones.

“There's not usually choreography and songs to learn, so that's a big challenge,” Morante said.

One thing the student actors will not have to worry about is spending hours in the makeup chair transforming into the farm animals.

“There have been productions that did full-on horse costumes,” Bekavac said. “I wanted to tell more of the story. I wanted to have the kids use their bodies to convey animal traits rather than doing masks.”

Backus said conveying his character convincingly to the audience will be his biggest challenge.

“It's very hard to keep in mind how your animal would move, how he would react in a certain situation,” Backus said.

For Bekavac, the play ties in perfectly with the high school's curriculum.

“‘Animal Farm' kept coming back to the top of my list,” he said. “They know the novel and study it here in the English classes.”

“Animal Farm” will run Nov. 11 and 12 in the high school auditorium.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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