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Nayar directs, reinterprets “Lord of the Flies”

The gender-neutral casting of “Lord of the Flies” allows the work to be interpreted in new and meaningful ways. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.
The gender-neutral casting of “Lord of the Flies” allows the work to be interpreted in new and meaningful ways. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.
The gender-neutral casting of “Lord of the Flies” allows the work to be interpreted in new and meaningful ways. Photo by Sarah Ruiz.

Ronnie Ruse

This weekend, the well-known high school English classic “Lord of the Flies” comes to Roberts Theatre in an innovative student production directed by Sophiyaa Nayar ’17.

For those who need a brief recap, “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding is the story of a group of British schoolchildren who are isolated on an uninhabited island. The children’s attempt to establish order in their primitive new home sets the scene for examination of power structures and good versus evil.

Nayar chose to produce “Lord of the Flies” because she is interested in the psychology of power and the human subconscious.

“I’m fascinated by the idea of human beings in isolated situations and what becomes of them based on the things that they’ve seen, like things on TV or the media,” Nayar said. “In situations of isolation people pick up on power structure. These kids end up bullying each other because there’s no one stopping them, and it starts off childish and playful [but] eventually becomes menacing.”

The project originally started out as a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) before it became an open space production. She drew inspiration from her time in boarding school and the class hierarchy.

“I absolutely loved my experience in boarding school. But we had experiences of groupthink and group mentality.There was this whole idea that when a senior gets up and says, ‘Do my laundry,’ you don’t question it, you just do it,” Nayar said. “My whole time there I respected it and it made complete sense to me. Getting out of it and looking back at it I realized that there were some strange groupthink things that I did that I wouldn’t have done if I had thought on my own.”

Nayar believes that student productions offer a unique hands-on opportunity and valuable learning experience for students.

“I think it’s important to have student productions on top of faculty productions because it gives student directors a chance to practice outside of a classroom and [show] us the gaps we have in our knowledge,” Nayar said.

Anh Thu Pham ’19, who plays a hunter named Maurice, said she enjoyed the flexibility of working with a student director and the amount of student input in the production.

“This is the first play I’ve auditioned for and I thought it was interesting. I auditioned for improv and that sparked my theatre interest,” Pham said.

Although all of the characters in the original novel are boys, Nayar made the decision to cast a gender-neutral ensemble.

“Sophiyaa decided to have a gender-neutral cast, and she wanted specifically Piggy to be male,” Pham said. “In the book the only female character is the pig and the [only other] feminine character was Piggy. And Piggy was bullied for his thinking and for his way of reacting to things.”

Nayar’s play riffs on the idea of a gender-neutral cast by having a group of female hunters bully Piggy.

“We’re shaping our own gender. Girls are bullying Piggy for being a girl, for being feminine,” Pham said.

Nayar hopes the play will be accessible to a diverse audience.

“I think it’s a show worth coming to because it’s a book we all read when we were kids, but viewed through a slightly different lens. The theatre department does really good work and really interesting work, but sometimes it tends to be work that not everyone in the campus can relate to directly,” she said. “So this I think can be a piece that everyone knows and everyone can come to, like your favorite movie.”

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