The Crucible BSQ 2010.wmv





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Published on Mar 28, 2010

Using the historical subject of the Salem Witch trials, Arthur Miller's play The Crucible (1953) presents an allegory for events in contemporary America. The Salem Witch Trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, and were based on the accusations of a twelve-year-old girl named Anne Putnam. Putnam claimed that she had witnessed a number of Salem's residents holding black sabbaths and consorting with Satan. Based on these accusations, an English-American clergyman named Samuel Parris spearheaded the prosecution of dozens of alleged witches in the Massachusetts colony. Nineteen people were hanged and one pressed to death over the following two years.
Of all Arthur Miller's classic dramas, remains his most difficult play to convincingly produce. One wrong choice from a director, one wrong gesture from a performer, and the play will elicit laughter instead of gasps of pathos.

From a literary standpoint, the story and characters are easy to comprehend. Set in Salem, Massachusetts the plot moves at a brisk pace and the audience quickly learns that the protagonist, John Proctor, is the object of young, wicked Abigail Williams' desire. She will stop at nothing to recapture the heart of this married man, even if it means accusing others of witchcraft and igniting the deadly flames of hysteria, a paranoia that will ultimately lead many to the gallows.

John Proctor carries a dark weight in his soul. A respected farmer and husband, he has committed adultery with a seventeen year old girl (Abigail). Yet, although he hides this fact from the rest of the community, he still values truth. He knows that the allegations of witchcraft are vengeful lies. John struggles throughout the play. Should he accuse his former lover of lying and attempted murder? Even at the cost of being publicly branded an adulterer?

The conflict intensifies during the play's final act. He is given a chance to save his own life, but to do that he must confess that he had worshipped the devil. His ultimate choice provides a powerful scene that every leading actor should strive to play.
A specialist in seeking out Satans disciples, Rev. Hale travels to New England towns wherever rumors of witchcraft are present. Think of him as a puritan version of The X-Files.
At first, the audience might find him to be just as self-righteous as Rev. Parris. However, Hale seeks out witches because in his own misguided way he wants to rid the world of evil. He speaks as though his methods are logical and scientific, when in fact he uses wives' tales and mythology to root out so-called demons.
Ultimately, in the climactic third act, Hale feels that John Proctor is telling the truth. The once-idealistic reverend openly denounces the court, but it is too late. The judges have already made their deadly ruling. Rev. Hale is heavy with guilt when the hangings take place, despite his prayers and fervent protests.
Now, if the plot and characters are amazingly coherent, then why should this play be a challenge to successfully produce? The scenes of pretend witchcraft can evoke a comic effect, if performed the wrong way. For example, many high school productions have gone over the top during the possession scenes. The script calls for young women of Salem to gyrate as if in a demonic fit, to envision birds flying around them, and to repeat words as though they are hypnotized.

If done correctly, these scenes of mock-witchcraft can create a chilling effect. The audience will be able to understand how judges and reverends could be fooled into making a deadly decision. However, if the performers become too silly, the audience might chuckle and chortle, and then it might be hard to make them feel the profound tragedy of the play's end.

In short, the "magic" of this play will come from the supporting cast. If actors can realistically recreate what life was like back in 1692, the audience will have a vicarious experience. They will come to understand the fears, desires, and disputes of this small Puritan town, and may come to relate to the people of Salem not as characters in a play, but as real people who lived and died, often in the face of cruelty and injustice.
I think you did it!!!


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