More than just good theatre, The Crucibleby Arthur Miller has stood the test of time as political theatre. Using the Salem Witch Trials (three of its victim’s memorials are shown above) the playwright explores how such injustices come about. Miller takes on the way people will use fear and intimidation to silence opposition, and how truth is always a casualty of justice miscarried.
Even in supposedly civilized societies, persecution and the encouragement of a mob mentality and peer pressure are often used for political or financial gain.
The Salem witch trials were supposed to reveal the true witches of Salem, but it really was about power and property, with a little bit of revenge thrown in. Similarly, the Ku Klux Klan harassed and murdered black people simply because of the color of their skin, mainly to keep the white males in positions of power and control.
When Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, he clearly had the victims of Senator Joe McCarthy’s communist witch hunt in mind. The Fifties were a decade when progressive Americans cowered in fear of being named communists, or socialists, or even liberals. Today, many Americans still like to write off whole groups of people, as we read of the daily harassment of Muslims. America is not a friendly place for people who happen to wear unusual turbans and head wraps. Some, like the Sikhs, aren’t even from the Middle East.
Watch the news to hear about Latinos living in American border towns being singled out for random searches. Synagogues still get swastikas painted on their walls. Patriotic gays and lesbians continue to be drummed out of the military and made the object of derision by pols playing to the guttersnipes. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lies and accusations of non-conformity are the grist of today’s politics, and has tied us up in knots as we look on in frustration. For a free and equal society, we sure have some embarrassing baggage, don’t we.
So Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage Company could not have picked a more opportune time to bring Miller’s classic work back to the Main Stage of Barrington Stage Company. Running from October 6 to 24, 2010 it stops a week short of Halloween, the biggest tourism week for Salem, MA. For the city, the Salem Witch Trials are still a cash cow.
The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s most performed play, and was first produced in 1953 starring Arthur Kennedy and Beatrice Straight. The Crucible, set in 1692, uses the Salem witch hunts as an historical allegory for McCarthy’s blacklisting of Americans in the 1950’s. The same mob hysteria takes hold in both periods as Miller examines religious intolerance, perversions of justice and the individual’s role in society. The Crucible, which never seems to lose its relevance, explodes with passion, fear, and danger when a group of teenage girls, caught dancing in the forest, take their revenge on their Salem Puritanical society by naming names of townspeople who they claim are witches.
Julianne Boyd is very familiar with The Crucible, having been the first play she ever directed, and in Biloxi, Mississippi no less. The community was very divided, with half staying away from the performances in protest. Light and truth can do that to bigots and those who depend on ignorance to hold their dominant positions. In 2008 Boyd staged To Kill a Mockingbird in this same seasonal slot. She has a knack of finding theatrical works that have remained relevant over the years.
The production features Christopher Innvar (BSC’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Private Lives) as John Proctor, Kim Stauffer (BSC’s A Streetcar Named Desire) as Elizabeth Proctor, newcomer Jessica Griffin as Abigail Williams, Robert Zukerman (BSC’s Ring Round the Moon and The Collyer Brothers) as Deputy Governor Danforth, Fletcher McTaggart as Reverend John Hale (TV: Law & Order), Peter Samuel as Reverend Parris (BSC’s South Pacific), Edward Cating as Judge Hathorne, Gordon Stanley (BSC’s The Fantasticks) as Giles Corey, Rosalind Cramer as Rebecca Nurse/Sarah Good (BSC’s To Kill A Mockingbird), Jeffrey Kent as Thomas Putnam (BSC’s A Streetcar Named Desire), Glen Barrett as Francis Nurse, and Matt Neely as Ezekiel Cheever. The cast also includes Betsy Hogg as Mary Warren, Starla Benford as Tituba, Peggy Pharr Wilson (BSC’s Carousel and To Kill a Mockingbird) as Mrs. Ann Putnam, Maggie Donnelly as Mercy Lewis, Caroline Mack as Betty Parris, Gabrielle Smachetti as Susanna Walcott.
The production design team for The Crucible includes scenic design by David Barber (BSC’s Sleuth), costume design by Kristina Sneshkoff (BSC’s The Memory Show), lighting design by Scott Pinkney (BSC’s The Whipping Man and Carousel) and sound design by Brad Berridge (BSC’s Pool Boy and Absurd Person Singular). Renee Lutz is production stage manager.
In conjunction with The Crucible, Barrington Stage will host Symposia on Arthur Miller Columbus Day Weekend, October 9-10. The weekend will include two free events: Seeing Red: Children of Blacklisted Writers and How The Crucible Came to be the Voice of American Conscience. Seeing Red: Children of Blacklisted Writers, a panel discussion moderated by Chris Rohmann, will be held on Saturday, October 9 at 4pm on the BSC Mainstage, 30 Union Street. Rohmann is an arts writer, theater director, critic, author and musician. Panelists include Kate Lardner, whose father was blacklisted journalist and screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr., one of the “Hollywood 10;” Marguerite Thomas, whose father was the blacklisted film publicist George H. Thomas, Jr.; and Tony Kahn, whose father was the blacklisted screenwriter Gordon Kahn. How The Crucible Came to be the Voice of American Conscience will be held Sunday, October 10 at 1pm on Stage 2. Dr. Sue Abbotson, noted Arthur Miller scholar, will talk about how Miller came to write the play, the public’s initial reaction and how it has since grown in stature. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the Box Office at 413-236-8888.
Performances of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible are from October 6 through October 24 – Wednesday and Thursday at 7pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm at BSC Mainstage, 30 Union St., Pittsfield. An additional matinee will be held on Wednesday, October 20 at 2pm. Student matinee performances are October 8, 15, 19 and 22 at 10am (not open to the public). Press Opening: Sun., October 10 at 3pm. Tickets: $15-$35. Weeknight Previews: Oct. 6-8: $20 and $15. Pay What You Can Night for 35 year olds and younger: Friday, October 8 at 8pm. Family Night: Youth 18 and younger are free when accompanied by a parent/guardian on Friday, October 15 at 8pm. Barrington Stage is fully-accessible, including wheelchair accessibility and assisted listening devices at every performance. Accessible seating is available by reservation. For ticket information, call 413-236-8888, stop by the BSC Box Office at 30 Union Street or visit www.barringtonstageco.org.