That’s how many hours Aiden Hurley, a sophomore at Durango High School and member of Troupe 1096, estimates it took him to plan, film and edit the theater troupe’s latest production, “1984,” which began streaming online Wednesday and will be available until April 14.
The free show is based on the iconic dystopian novel by George Orwell. It’s the story of Winston Smith, who lives under the constant watch of Big Brother.
“I have been considering staging an adaptation of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ for a few years with the students of Durango High School Troupe 1096, but this year felt especially perfect. When we found out we needed to do a virtual season this year, the idea of exploring a story full of disconnection, broadcasts, mis-information, and a gripping fight for humanity became very exciting for all of us,” said Director Ben Mattson in his director’s notes. “This was an arduous task from the beginning, with no clear way through for much of the process. We started our adventure in late August, and have finally put the pieces together in what has become an unrepeatable collage of theater, film and multimedia.”
Cue the 271 hours.
Because the show was to be presented online, the production’s logistics were a major obstacle. Aiden said the troupe tried to do the show over Zoom a few different ways, but it just wasn’t working. He said he had a little experience with green screens – filming actors in front of a screen and filling in a background during editing – might be the ticket.
“I thought about the idea of green-screening the people in the show and compositing them together into a single image. My part of it was I came up with that idea, I had to pre-plan all the shots and I had to go into the theater and film with a telephoto lens so that we could stay over 20 feet away from everybody and have a microphone and everything and then just shot them in front of the green screen,” he said, adding that the editing was his biggest job: “I composited everything together and then put the composited pieces together – all of that, the planning and the filming and the editing all came to like 271 hours.”
The cast includes: Lucas Spaeder, Aiden Hurley, Topher Hughes, Abbie Albert, Baxter Moore, Katelyn Bowie, Maya Mouret, Mallory Liggett, Maggie Williams, Cruz Colvig, Dakota Gervais, Cornelius Hurley and Jonah Morrison.
Mattson said there is no charge to watch “1984” because it’s important to share the students’ hard work on the face of a tough year.
“I want people to experience it. As much as I believe in the product, I think it’s very worthwhile, I think right now it’s a hard buy-in for people. I think people are a little Zoomed out and streamed out,” he said. “So offering it for free, my hope is that more people take the bite and try it out because I think they’re going to find it incredible.
Troupe 1096 will finish its season in May with the musical based on Stephen King’s novel “Carrie.” Notable about this production (besides the fact “Carrie”!) is that this will be the troupe’s first live show in the year since COVID-19 hit, although with super-limited seating.