Animal Farm director Alice Berry doesn't want to be a propagandist. Although her small, indefatigable company's known more for its dedication to Southern literature than its politics, with original creations like Sister Myotis and the plays of Jerre Dye, Voices of the South has always married smart commentary with pure populism. As a co-founder and longtime collaborator, Berry wants to start conversations, and she worries that a facile connection of George Orwell's barnyard fable of revolution and the rise of the Soviet state to current events would start arguments instead.
"Voices has always been about language," Berry explains. "And so much of Animal Farm is about the manipulation of language and how that manipulation of language works on all of the animals. How it changes the choices they make. Like, after the animals build the windmill, they start to realize their lives aren't getting any better, they're just getting older, and tireder, and instead of working less they work more and more, but they still believe things are going to change."
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" is the ultimate governing principle of Manor Farm, where ranking pigs mingle with neighboring human farmers and are, in fact, indistinguishable. Although it's only 72 years old and was written in response to Stalinism, Orwell's self-described fairy story has so far proven to be durable, adaptable, and uncomfortably current.
"It's so full of details," Berry says. "And every one of them matters."