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Lady of the Flies 

It's not politics as usual in this Woman's Will adaptation of a classic novel

Wednesday, Sep 29 2004
When a gaggle of British schoolboys flies to a distant location to avoid a war breaking out at home, the plane unexpectedly goes down and the boys wind up on a deserted island with no grown-ups around. Sounds like a treat, right? No adults to report to, no studying to be done; ice cream for lunch, swimming in the evening, bedtime at sunrise. What could be better?

Ah, but there's no ice cream on this island. Just pigs. And despite the boys' desire to form a democratic government, they fight battles for leadership and have major disagreements about how to survive -- and how to get the hell out of there.

William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies 50 years ago, shortly after World War II, revealing the inherent human ugliness that arises when sheer survival comes into play. Now, Woman's Will, San Francisco's resident all-female acting troupe, is producing Nigel Williams' adaptation of the novel.

The show comes during the hot pre-election month of October, at a time when the whole world is examining the possibilities, and impossibilities, of democracy. "The political system is divisive right now, and people don't feel they have any energy to deal with it," says Woman's Will Artistic Director Erin Merritt. "But it's important to participate, because not participating is also affecting the community."

Merritt is gung-ho on political action, and as a result has organized a huge "Theatre for Public Involvement" program, which involves partnering with local high schools to help students study Golding's book, participate in discussions about the play, and get involved in the production on various levels. She has also scheduled speakers for every night after the show (except the last), including anti-war activists and local political journalists. And thanks to a grant the company received, the performances are all free.

Although she's a big advocate for social change, Merritt is aware that Golding's vision of humanity was less than utopian. The boys in the story end up giving each other hell in all sorts of ways (someone even dies), and at its heart the novel is fairly tragic. But Merritt believes the author was digging for something deeper, and she's hoping to draw positive meaning out of his tale. "As much as Golding seems to be postulating that human nature is inherently bad, or at least that the good could not prevail, he did keep writing on it," she says.

There is, however, one big difference between Golding's story and Merritt's production: Her island is all girls. Would things have turned out as badly if sugar and spice had run the island instead of snips and snails and puppy dog tails? Merritt says yes: "I don't think boys are better than girls. I think we're different, but I don't think we're more virtuous."

About The Author

Karen Macklin


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