1984 (this production has ended. thank you.)




Michael Gene Sullivan

David Kaye

March 1-17
Tickets: $12 online
Please click HERE for tickets.

This exciting adaptation of George Orwell's classic has been proclaimed as
as well as

Commissioned by Kingsbury Hall for the Los Angeles-based Actor's Gang, Michael Gene Sullivan penned this dark and exciting version to be directed by Oscar winning actor/film-maker Tim Robbins. This powerful script launches the audience into a terrifying world that no longer seems as far off as originally conceived by Orwell in 1949.

Throughout its publication history, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been either banned or legally challenged as intellectually dangerous to the public, just like Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" (1932); "We" (1924), by Yevgeny Zamyatin; Kallocain (1940), by Karin Boye; and Fahrenheit 451 (1951), by Ray Bradbury. In 2005, Time magazine included Nineteen Eighty-Four in its list of 100 best English-language novels since 1923.


(in no particular order)


WINSTON:  Christopher Elst

When I auditioned for 1984, I hadn't really grasped the nature of the challenge ahead. David Kaye had detailed that the main character would go through a great deal of physical trauma onstage, but during the readthrough, it became clear that the physical part of the role was only the tip of the iceberg. With this terrific cast, I have no doubt that 1984 will be a psychological pressure cooker for both cast and audiences and that is a challenge I look forward to.



THE VOICE:  Michael Keiley

1984 or 2O12, I know. I don’t know either. There are many views out there that believe this is where we are headed. I know Great Britain is under total surveillance, and it seems that daily so many of our liberties are being whittled away under the guise of patriotism and freedom. Shows such as this expose folks to a new thought process, however.  And extreme is always good for mental growth. 
Oh yes, and he IS watching.


PARTY MEMBER:  Marcee Doherty

Having worked with Director David Kaye in last summer's hit, Cannibal! The Musical, at the Alchemist Theatre, Marcee Doherty (Citizen 1/Winston) was excited for the opportunity to return to the Bayview stage with Bad Example Productions for 1984.  Always interested in new, challenging work, Marcee was intrigued by the opportunity that Citizen 1/Winston provides - specifically, the interesting twist Director David Kaye has taken with this role by having Winston portrayed as a female in the reenactment scenes throughout the show.  With Christopher Elst in the role of Winston, Marcee's challenge is to portray aspects of Winston's personality and decisions as a woman while maintaining the integrity of the character Christopher creates to provide continuity for Winston for the audience.  Luckily, offstage Marcee shares her life with Christopher so the additional rehearsal time to create 1 character that is shared by 2 actors should be easier to fit in!


PARTY MEMBER:  Clayton Hamburg

I recently visited London to attend my cousin Richard's wedding.  One afternoon while on a jaunty little stroll along the Thames after taking in a delicious performance at none other than Shakespeare's Globe I noticed an abundance of signs posted.  These signs read, "This Area Monitered by CCTV", which immediately translated in my mind to "Big Brother is Watching.".  My interest erupted like a pigeon on antacids.  Upon my return to this side of the pond (as those silly English folk are so fond of calling the ATLANTIC FREAKING OCEAN) I heard about this production and seeing as the world will be ending soon thought to myself, "Gosh that sounds like a fun little loveable thing to spend my time focusing on.", and here I am. 




PARTY MEMBER:  Erin Hartman

I wanted to be involved with this show because, for better or worse, 1984 has remained relevant, and even contentious, more than 60 years after its publication. It's certainly not difficult to draw parallels between Big Brother's methods and many modern realities. Yet for every person who objects to warrantless wiretapping, ubiquitous CCTV monitoring, or SOPA as unnerving violations of personal rights and privacy, there is certainly a supporter for each of these measures, and that's okay. I just hope this production will encourage people to continue to question and debate their beliefs and values; Without open dialogue, we risk falling under the rule of those who think they know better.




PARTY MEMBER:   9640 Eineichner, J.
Jeremy was drawn to this show by a long-time love of the source material, and it's influence on his life. He knew that this production, with this script, in this setting, in these times would be something special, even important. He has always been drawn to non-traditional performances, the kind of shows where the audience isn't comfortable and isn't supposed to be. He saw this as an opportunity to challenge himself as a performer and as a chance to challenge the community-at-large with something they've never seen.







DIRECTOR:  David Kaye
Anyone that started a theatre company called Bad Example Productions clearly has some issues that need to be worked out, most likely on the stage. What better time is there than a presidential election year, to produce Michael Gene Sullivan’s version of 1984? I’ve always been fiercely political, but despite my feeling that this show backs up my particular views, more then anything it is a fierce repudiation of extremism. In a time when the only words out of politicians mouths are, my opponent is Hitler, or un-American, or a terrorist sympathizer, maybe it was time to show the path we are walking down. Not everyone agrees with my views, and that’s just fine with me. Let’s sit down, let’s talk, let’s disagree, and make this country better for it. 





LIGHTS  VIDEO  SET:  Aaron Kopec

I read the book in 1983 at nearly the same moment that i read "Animal Farm" so i had a confused memory of Prole-the-Pig who walked on his hind legs and stuck to his guns about his building design that others said was too plain.  Maybe i read "Fountainhead" around that time too.
Anyhow i was excited to see this on the stage and sort out these memories.
I thought others probably have that "it's been a while" feeling about the story as well.
I've been surprised to learn that many continued to read and enjoy the book long after school and even more suprised to discover how many people had NO idea that "1984" existed - either the book or the year.
So this production did what it was supposed to do. 
  It's been great to work with everyone involved and the audiences have been amazing.
Thanks all!


"1984" still delivers a social sting in 2012

By   Marquette Tribune
March 1, 2012
Big Brother is watching

Even if you are not familiar with dystopian literature, you probably have heard these chilling words. “Big Brother” has become an iconic and pervasive symbol of fear. Nothing is safe when Big Brother is watching.
The classic novel “1984” by George Orwell is set in a futuristic totalitarian society.  Winston Smith, the story’s protagonist, struggles to live in a world where the oppressive government known as the Party sees and hears everything. The theatrical adaptation of “1984″ opens tonight at Bay View’s Alchemist Theatre and will be running until March 17.
Winston is not aware of any government or lifestyle other than his own. Yet, at the beginning of the novel, he starts to understand how tyrannical the Party is. He works to fight the Party’s power in a secret conspiracy movement and (spoiler alert!) eventually is tragically betrayed.
The play backtracks through the novel’s chronology by immediately starting the story in an interrogation room. The audience never leaves the interrogation, but Winston’s story is illustrated through this torturous questioning process. The simple set, consisting of only five chairs and a table, is one of the few tangible tools used to tell Winston’s tale of triumph and failure.
David Kaye, the director of “1984,” said the famous scenes in the play are not portrayed as flashbacks, but as a Party reenactment of Winston’s flaws in thinking. Kaye said the show escalates the level of relentlessness even more than the novel.

“The story is a torture and breakdown of a 39-year-old man who dared to believe something different than what the government told him to,” Kaye said.

Kaye has always loved dystopian literature, and he wanted to do a political piece during the year of a presidential election.

“I am a trouble maker, and I always have been,” Kaye said. “I want to show an extremity and flexibility of viewpoints.”

Despite the fact that Orwell wrote the novel as a social commentary of the Soviet Union during the 1940s, Kaye believes the story’s message is certainly pertinent today.

“The famous saying ‘Big Brother is watching’ is maybe a little neurotic and vicious but the possibility is out there,” Kaye said. “Where our society is with iPads and the Internet, we have a desire to be part of the world. It’s so much easier to be watched.”

The story’s fear of government censorship feels even more relevant with recent attempts to pass unpopular Internet legislation, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. Many internet users feel that SOPA and PIPA will stifle the Internet’s identity as a space of open and free information.

The book’s stage adaptation removes the identity and individuality of characters. Most characters do not have names but are referred to only by letters. Winston is one of the few characters with an actual name. The Party members of the interrogation use drastic methods to strip Winston of his humanity.

“(The interrogation) breaks him down emotionally, physically, mentally and sexually,” Kaye said.

Kaye said that the Alchemist Theatre added a torture method that was more current with modern interrogation practices. He would not comment on what it was as to not ruin the surprise.

“I squirm in my seat every night (that I watch it). But it doesn’t last long because we don’t want to torture the audience,” Kaye said.

Kaye says the show has a sense of emotional immediacy. He commented that the Alchemist Theatre has a tendency to have an element of horror in its productions, but the company still does comedy exceptionally well. This show gives the audience a reprieve from the emotional intensity with comedic and romantic moments.

“1984″ is sure to be tantalizing and brutal but also thought-provoking, pushing audiences to take a look at what our own government stands for.


Before And Beyond the Stage
Russ Bickerstaff

So often it's the substance of things beyond the stage that make for a theatre experience. When I went out to see a show last night at the Alchemist it was snowing. Heavily. For various reasons I guess I decided to walk it to the theatre in what is likely to be one of the last sniwfalls of the season. Michael Gene Sullivan probably didn't have a snowstorm in mind when he adapted George Orwell's 1984 for the stage, but the brutal weather added to the mood of the show quite nicely.
Walk in from the punishment of serious snowfall and there's the dark intimacy of the Alchemist Theatre. The Alchemist always seems to have such a fun time of bringing the atmosphere of the show into the bar and letting it breathe. A voice announces slogans amidst a Brian Eno soundscape rolling through the background. Slogans rapidly shoot across a video screen at the far end of the bar. There's a surveilance camera on the bar trhat occasionally pans around, it's friendly little tally light letting you know it's there and it's watching. Subtle little reminders of the show you're about to see. Yes, you're ordering a beer or a drink or whatever, but you know what you're about to see onstage next door is NOT going to be pretty.
Sit down with your drink and the Alchemist has its usual blend of theatrical creative types in the audience, but the shadow of the show is kind of colors the atmosphere around all the edges. Someone comes to the bar asking for something for Michael Keily. Look in the program and there he is listed as only "The Voice." You'll hear him before you ever see him. And when you see him it's too late for the priotagonist . . . a guy played by Christpoher Elst. This is a really good cast that's been put to good use . . . long live Big Brother, right? Take another sip of your drink and wait for them to open the house. That's what you're here for, right? You're here to see a show, right? It's only theatre...relax and say hello to the camera...
The fun little game being played in the show is that . . . the entire thing plays out as an inquisition for the protagonist. What subversive thoughts has he been having and how do we deal with it . . . and his journal is reas to him . . . prerformed for him like theatre. And that's what we're all here for . . . we're ALL here for theatre . . . so there's kind of a subtle layering going on there. Andthen there's the program . . . a simple 81/2''x11'' piece of paper that lists all the main people involved in the production in simple sanserif black and white. And there at the top of it there's text that says "BIG BROTHER LOVES YOU. BIG BROTHER IS WARTCHING." Why go for anything more complex than that? That single sheet of paper is just another document like all the others that are in the files being rifled through by those looking for answers from Winston Smith in the form of Christopher Elst . . . all very, very mood. All very, very intersting.



George Orwell’s dystopian novel of near omniscient totalitarianism has never been more relevant than today. Personal privacy has nearly became an antiquated concept, our civil rights are continually being chipped away, and being refused a job because of something a would-be employer found out about you on Google is a common occurrence. Big Brother is watching, there is no doubt. While Orwell’s dark post-atomic future has yet to become total reality, this brilliant—though some would say subversive—piece of speculative fiction should remain always in the world’s collective consciousness otherwise it runs the risk of transcending into the realm of prophecy.

Project Empty Space Productions and Bad Example Productions have brought Michael Gene Sullivan’s Nineteen Eighty-Four stage adaption to Milwaukee for a three week run at the Alchemist Theatre, directed by David Kaye. Wisconsin Sickness was present for opening night, March 1, 2012.

I was impressed at the production’s attempts to submerge the audience in the world of Oceania. Telescreens, surveillance cameras, and announcements celebrating the glory of Big Brother filled the lobby. When the doors opened, the crowd filed into the tiny theatre. An actor lay on stage sleeping in a small, dirty cell as Big Brother propaganda played over a telescreen. The entire affair was given a voyeuristic quality, all the more unsettling given the nature of the story.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nineteen Eighty-Four, this is where the SPOILERS come in (in a very over simplified way, mind you). The play’s protagonist is a man by the name of Winston Smith, a middle class man who works in the “Ministry of Truth” rewriting history at the whims of Big Brother. He secretly despises the Party (the one political power in the superstate of Oceania) and his job. He meets a young woman and the two begin a secret love affair. Eventually their minds turn to rebellion. The play begins just after Winston’s capture, during his subsequent torture and interrogation by a group of Party members. These Party members reenact various scenes from Winston’s testimony as a form of emotional torture, all while a mysterious Voice directs the atrocity.

Christopher Elst portrayed Winston very well, making him seem deplorable, pitiable, and admirable throughout the play. The Party members were portrayed by Marcee Doherty, Erin Hartman, Clayton Hamburg, and Jeremy Eineichner (AKA Jeremy J. Comedian of the comedy troupe The M.U.T.E.S.). This quartet did a wonderful job of portraying a multitude of different characters on stage, and overcame the handicap of wearing the same costumes throughout. Highlights were Hartman's singing voice, and Hamburg’s enthusiastic sadism. My chief concern early on was that the play would be overwhelming given its heavy subject matter, but just enough comedy from Eineichner and Hamburg, and just enough sex from Doherty and Hartman kept the weight off during most of the play. The character which left the longest lasting impression on me was the Voice, played by Michael Keiley. His cold, emotionless dictation succeeded greatly at capturing the utter lack of humanity present in Big Brother’s criminal dictatorship. At no point did the Voice give Winston any hint of hope or salvation.

My only criticisms are small. A couple of flubbed lines, a few lines delivered flatly, nothing that ruined the overall performance. The final act was plagued by microphone noise, but for me that added to the experience. The play is brutal, you’re in a darkling gem of a theatre like the Alchemist, and you’re watching indie art. Let the mic squeal.

I declare that the play was extremely successful at achieving the goal of the source material. Orwell’s novel is a nightmare of the darkest sort, and just like a vivid night terror the play stayed with me all the following day. I couldn’t stop examining its meaning; I wanted to think about what I had experienced, and what it all meant. When you see this play, be sure to take along a few friends. You’ll need someone to discuss it with on the way home, and probably during lunch at work the next day too.


Orwell's '1984' Inhabits Alchemist Stage

Russ Bickerstaff
Michael Gene Sullivan's adaptation taps into the disturbing universal elements of George Orwell's dystopian classic 1984. The play consists of two extended interrogation scenes separated by an intermission in a vivid Project Empty Space production at the Alchemist Theatre.

Christopher Elst plays Winston, a man who is asked to answer for his personal activities. Party members grill the man on his life events, re-enacting them for him in an effort to get him to understand the error of his ways.

As the play begins, we see Winston is already exhausted. What we are about to watch will define him as an individual. Elst plays the role not defiant so much as resilient. He seeks no more or less than the truth in a heartbreaking, sympathetic role. He's not a hero. He could be any of us.

Party members are played in different temperaments. Jeremy Eineichner is softly imposing as an eager follower of Big Brother. Lean and angry, Clayton Hamburg shows a more aggressive side of that loyalty. Erin Hartman plays a party member perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about displaying the sensual side of Winston's story with a compassionate citizen played by Marcee Doherty. At the center of it all is a striking, chilling performance by Michael Keiley. His is the voice you hear throughout the play. When Keiley appears onstage, Winston's dark reformation is nearly complete. Director David Kaye does an excellent job of ushering the story to a deeply disturbing conclusion.