Mass hysteria: ‘The Crucible’ at JC this weekend looks at Salem Witch TrialsA classic tale of mass hysteria and fear set in the late 1600s comes to the stage starting tonight at Jamestown College.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A classic tale of mass hysteria and fear set in the late 1600s comes to the stage starting tonight at Jamestown College.
Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is a mix between drama and tragedy, as it looks at the events leading up to the Salem Witch Trials.
“The intensity of it is kind of unparalleled, there are so many scenes of high conflict and incredible animosity going on between characters with life and death stakes,” said Mike McIntyre, show director. “It’s about as theatrical as drama can be and it’s really great material for students to work with.”
The story starts with a group of girls getting discovered in the woods doing heretical activities. From there it evolves into a trial where townspeople turn on one another with life and death stakes.
“Out of all the characters in the show there are maybe just a couple that are sort of flawless, ones that don’t have the type of flaw you have to build tragedy around,” McIntrye said. “Most all the characters are capable of despicable thoughts and deeds.”
The play was written by Miller during the height of McCarthyism.
Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., in the 1950s, accused several prominent American figures of being communists or communist sympathizers.
The movement ultimately died out in the mid- to late- 1950s, but influenced culture as it was a significant source of debate and disagreement. Many careers died with the placement of a name on McCarthy’s infamous “blacklist.”
McIntyre didn’t pick the play because of any current events, but rather the lessons “The Crucible” has taught over the years.
“The way that the characters behave, the sorts of evil things that are derived from fear for their situations is something you could always find contemporary parallels if you wish,” he said. “So it’s just as timely today as it was in the 1950s really.”
McIntyre said the play has lived on long after it was written because of that message. Even Miller thought “The Crucible” would never be prominent so many years after he wrote it.
“He expected the play’s appeal would fade over time, and what he wrote about was the play never seemed to have weakened as far as people’s willingness to produce, relate to it, and understand it,” McIntyre said of the famous playwright.
McIntyre said his students are up to the challenge of playing some of the meanest characters to take the stage in what will be JC’s theater season finale.
“Some of the nastiest characters are played by some of our nicest people, and working with them to let loose and play with that side of things is one of the biggest memories so far to have occurred,” he said.
“The Crucible” is at 7:30 tonight through Saturday in DeNault Auditorium in the Reiland Fine Arts Center on the campus of Jamestown College.
Tickets are $7 and can be reserved through the Box Office by calling 252-3467, ext. 2435, or by email to email@example.com, or visit the Jamestown College website www.jc.edu and click on “Community” and “Reiland Box Office.” They can also be purchased at the door.
“With the spring show what I look for are master works,” McIntyre said. “I look for pieces that are almost legendary and have gained that status.”
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org