Written by Morgan Wrigley // Photo by Balazs Balassa
Harding Theatre took the stage Thursday night for the first performance of their production of “The Crucible.” There will be three more performances, tonight and tomorrow night, both at 7 p.m., and a matinee Monday, Feb. 27, at 11 a.m.
Arthur Miller’s classic play is a dramatized, partially fictionalized story of the 1692 Salem witch trials, when more than 200 people in Salem, Massachusetts, were accused of practicing witchcraft.
Senior Josie Holman said Miller’s retelling of the Salem witch trials interweaves lessons and warnings about the effects of fear on society.
“This is a show about what happens when fear runs people, when it runs a society and what happens when that fear is allowed to take over instead of the leadership that’s in place — when leadership fails to control the fear narrative,” Holman said.
Sophomore TJ Brown added that the heavy themes dealt with in this show set it apart from other Harding productions.
“It’s a bit more gritty,” Brown said. “It’s hard. It’s going to be an immersive experience.”
Brown plays the role of the protagonist, John Proctor.
“John Proctor is at this point in the show, first and foremost, guilty,” Brown said. “He’s filled with shame for something that he’s done in the past that you’ll learn about if you come see the show. He’s guilty, he’s angry, he’s confused throughout most of the show.”
Holman plays the role of John Proctor’s faithful wife, Elizabeth.
“She has been hurt very deeply by [John] very recently and is trying to learn how to recover their marriage,” Holman said. “But Elizabeth herself is a very hard, sharp woman, and it does not come naturally for her.”
Director Britton Lynn said the themes of Miller’s 1953 play are relevant to society today.
“The English teachers in this country will tell you that Miller wrote this play because it was a commentary on the fear of McCarthyism in the early 1950s,” Lynn said. “But when you read it and look at it with a contemporary eye, it’s not about any kind of specific political movement or anything. It’s actually about how if we allow fear to drive our actions, fear is incredibly destructive and divisive.”
Lynn said one of the main goals of taking this story and the real events it was based upon to the stage was to capture the genuine fear people felt at the time.
“Back in the Salem witch trials, they were deathly afraid of the supernatural, deathly afraid of the environment outside of their civilized world, because it was still very new, very raw, very dangerous,” Lynn said.
“Trying to capture that fear with this production and then talk about how it influences us was the goal that we had for the show.”
Lynn said audiences should take their seats around the thrust stage in the Ulrey Performing Arts Center this weekend ready to think deeply.
“It’s not a happy show,” Lynn said. “It’s a gritty show. It’s an angry show. It’s a preachy show. “So come ready to think; come ready to be challenged.”