Performance of 1984,

Authored by George Orwell

Adapted by Art Toad

(Dec 13 1998, NY1 News). Is Big Brother following you around the Big Apple? A study by the New York Civil Liberties Union says yes. The group's report points out more than 2000 secret videotape recorders in public places around Manhattan, especially in the Midtown and Wall Street areas. It's unclear who put the cameras up, but the NYCLU believes most of them are privately-owned. Police Commissioner Howard Safir makes no apologies. He insists the cameras are legal and help fight crime. But the NYCLU wants camera owners to be required to register their equipment and post signs informing people they're under surveillance.

At precisely 8 pm on Election Day (Tuesday 3 November 1998) -- and sarcastically proclaiming RE-ELECT BIG BROTHER -- six members of the Surveillance Camera Players (William, Bill Not Bored, John, Barbara, Susan, and Kate) performed all of Art Toad's special adaption of George Orwell's novel 1984 -- which turns 50 in 1999 -- in front of a surveillance camera in the 14th Street and Seventh Avenue subway station in Manhattan, New York City. The surveillance camera, which was spotted and mapped in advance by William and Bill, is located at the end of the long underground pedestrian tunnel that connects the 1,2,3 and 9 subway line with the L line. Thanks to an elbow-like bend in the tunnel and the position of the camera, a rather neat, apparently four-sided theatrical space is available for performances such as this one. (Note: the SCP used this space again on Monday 9 November 1998 -- the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht -- to once again perform 1984.)

While the historic performance was taking place -- to our knowledge, 1984 has never been performed as a play -- two separate videocamera crews and a still photographer documented it. (One of the crews brought with them a half-dozen friends, so that the entire group in attendance -- performers included -- numbered some 15 people.) In time, all the footage -- possibly including the footage taped by the Canadian Broadcast Company (Montreal) on 28 July 1998 and broadcast by it on 9 October 1998 -- will be assembled and edited together to create a single tape that will be aired on Paper Tiger TV and The Anarchist Forum, both local cable shows. Because the SCP were able to perform -- without any interruption whatsoever -- the entire eight-minute-long play twice, the two camera crews were able to take turns recording the performance as it appeared on the monitor attached to the surveillance camera in the tunnel, and as the performance took place in front of the surveillance camera itself and the eyes of the numerous passersby.

Of all the performances the SCP have given in their two years of activity, this was certainly the most elaborate. By hand, William drew all the boards and signs in the play, including huge images of The Brotherhood's freemasonic insignia and the face and watchful eyes of Big Brother. All four performers were costumed: John (Winston) and Barbara (Julia) wore matching blue jumpsuits; William (O'Brien) dressed in all black; and Bill (the narrator) wore a handsome grey suit and a tie, and a Halloween skeleton face-mask -- he looked like Hugo Ball onstage in Zurich in 1916, which just about says it all.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998

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