As the author of some of the most searing indictments of the damage governments and people can do, George Orwell has become synonymous with the kind of prescience most artists only dream of. But all of that doesn’t mean his work can’t also be extremely entertaining.
Jessica Robblee’s production at the Arvada Center of Orwell’s legendary “Animal Farm” proves that even the most familiar of stories are capable of being told in unique ways while conveying powerful truths.
“Orwell designed the story to be carried across borders, so he chose his allegory really deliberately. He wanted to use universally recognizable imagery,” Robblee, who handled both adaptation and directing duties, explained. “The show is relatable —audiences are observing and listening to characters mystified by the circumstances they’re in and puzzling through scary times. That doesn’t feel very far from the conversations we’ve all been having these days.”
“Animal Farm” runs at the center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., through Saturday, May 21. Most performances are at 7:30 p.m., with some at 1 and 2 p.m. The show is part of the center’s Black Box Repertory Theatre season.
Based on Nelson Bond’s adaptation, the show focuses on a farm where animals decide to take over the running of their farm when the current owner isn’t up to the task. An allegory on the Russian Revolution and early Soviet Union, the story retains its power because of the truths contained in its plot and characters.
“It’s the time-honored cycle: the few oppress the many (by force, by controlling information or by hoarding resources), people rise up against this system to change it, and then — amid the difficulty and confusion of trying to find a new way to do things — we slide back into the old system,” Robblee said. “So much of that backslide comes from fear (people scared of losing control) and of course from folks having a good old-fashioned appetite for power. Orwell wondered if that appetite might not be more problematic than violence, even.”
By bringing this famous story to life on the stage, Robblee, the cast and crew hope audiences will be inspired to change the way we think about the patterns we’re stuck in.
“The play is surprising in how it holds both joy and darkness, both comedy and tragedy,” she said. “It points out what I think many of us feel — that there’s a necessity for us to operate differently. That’s hard to do even on a personal level… and improving systems on a societal level is an intensely daunting task. But the alternative is horrifying. I think Orwell wants us to get that we must reframe our practice of thinking, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
For information and tickets, visit https://arvadacenter.org/events/animal-farm.
Get into the mind of a child at Clyfford Still
The Clyfford Still Museum’s latest exhibit goes in-depth on how children think about the art that speaks to them. “Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind” runs at the museum, 1250 Bannock St. in Denver, through Aug. 7. The exhibit was co-curated with children from six months old to age eight from all over the state but was designed to engage visitors of all ages.
According to provided information, the interactive exhibit uses existing research about what kinds of art children like at different points in their development and organizes the works into five gallery themes: high contrast, scale, pattern, the world around us and color. Visit https://clyffordstillmuseum.org/youngminds for more information.
Step into Frida Kahlo’s world
A true artist can bring the viewer into their world with the power of the work they created. Frida Kahlo was an artist of tremendous power; one whose creations charge the imagination. And now the Immersive Frida Kahlo exhibition offers a chance to really step into her world.
The event runs at Lighthouse Denver, 3900 Elati St., through May 30. The exhibit is from the same team behind the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit and features some of Kahlo’s most popular works brought to life by Italy’s Massimiliano Siccardi. There will be yoga classes and special date night activities hosted as part of the exhibit.
Tickets are available at immersive-frida.com/Denver.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week — Clairo at the Fillmore Auditorium
Claire Elizabeth Cottrill, who records under the name Clairo, first made a name for herself with music that blended pop with lo-fi electronic elements. But last year she released her sophomore album “Sling,” which traded that in for stripped down acoustic guitars and searching, incisive lyricism.
In support of the record Clairo will be stopping by the Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St. in Denver, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 20. Clairo will be joined by Arlo Parks, a British singer/songwriter whose debut album was released in 2021 and appeared on numerous best of the year lists.
Get tickets at www.livenation.com.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.