Individual ‘Ayn-them’: Ayn Rand adaptation aims for middle ground • Brooklyn Paper

Individual ‘Ayn-them’: Ayn Rand adaptation aims for middle ground

Prose in motion: Cast members of “[ai]”, an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novella “Anthem,” use abstract movement to convey the play’s moments of violence. Here they are seen rehearsing for the August 6 opening.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The theater is getting a little Rand-y.

A Williamsburg theater is staging an adaptation of a novella by anti-communist author Ayn Rand. But hold your horses, Tea Partiers! The “Anthem” adaptation, which opens August 6 at the Brick, is no celebration of Rand’s politics, says its director.

“I don’t want people to think that I adapted her work because I’m a supporter of her, because I’m really not,” said Ran Xia, a Bushwick playwright and director. She said that wants her play to show more nuance than A=A.

“I kind of want to show the problems of each side,” said Xia. “The more questions thrown out in people’s faces, the sooner we find solutions.”

Xia adapted “[ai]” from Rand’s dystopian story of a citizen in a hyper-collectivized society who rediscovers the notion of individuality. Xia shrugged off the idea of making an entirely faithful adaptation, instead using stylized dance movements to convey the scenes of violence and letting the show’s moral falls far from the ideological tree.

Rand’s staunchly individualist politics have made her a libertarian folk hero, but Xia is staying neutral on Rand’s political legacy. Xia grew up in Shanghai, which has remained avowedly communist even as market reforms have allowed rapid development. Coming of age in that mix of political systems led to Xia’s interest in exploring something between Rand’s extreme individualism and the dystopian collectivism of her novella.

“Individualism is important, and as long as you make decisions based on how it will affect others, it’s okay,” she said. “But community is a human need. If socialism has that as a goal, then I’m all for a communal identity as opposed to being isolated on your own.”

Xia said she became interested in dystopian books at an early age, reading Chinese translations of “1984” and “Brave New World.” The books weren’t assigned in school, she says, but she sought them out because she is a “huge nerd.”

“[ai]” at The Brick [579 Metropolitan Ave. between Lorimer Street and Union Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 285–3863, bricktheater.com.] Aug. 6–8 at 8 pm. $20. Aug. 10–20 at 8 pm. $25.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz

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