By Mel Ridgway
On March 1, 1692, the townspeople of Salem, Massachusetts began to hold trials accusing its citizens of witchcraft. Exactly 321 years later, the lights went up on the Educational Theatre program’s re-creation of these trials, The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Twelve graduate and undergraduate students, both in and out of the program, came together to take on this daunting task. I was lucky enough to be one of those twelve.
The idea of performing in an American classic like The Crucible – and trying to string it all together in only six weeks– was a very scary and exciting thought. To add to the stakes, this year marks the 60th anniversary of The Crucible‘s first Broadway production. Luckily we had the motivational push from our wonderful stage manager Talia Krispel and her assistant stage managers, Cody Allyn Page and Kathleen Turner and the aid of our director Dr. Philip Taylor and our dramaturg/assistant director Jonathan Jones.
The rehearsal process was, to say the least, memorable and challenging. The show is emotionally draining and forces you to really open your eyes. If the plot of this show is not enough to exhaust the cast, trying to figure out the grammar and language of the text was even harder. But, through an amazing cast bond we formed from the hours spent together, we challenged each other to leap past these hurdles and bring each other to the finish line. It was truly an ensemble effort to get to where we were.
One of the most interesting realizations in the process occurred during one of our talk-backs with high school students. One of these students raised their hand and asked, “Now why do the costumes look modern, the set pieces look like they’re from colonial times and the projections look like they’re from the 1950s?” The cast was baffled until one of our cast members, Cara Arcuni, answered this question.
“The themes of this show are timeless.”
I realized she was absolutely right. Somehow, in a strange yet understandable way, all of these time periods connected to each other. It reminded me of a quote our director introduced us to in the beginning of our rehearsal process:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
And this is exactly what has happened. We have forgotten about the message this play is supposed to teach us and, as punishment, we are still hunting witches to this day, only these witches take on the form of illegal immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and union workers just to name a few examples. The observation this high school student made was exactly Arthur Miller wanted. We are supposed to think it is strange that all of these different time periods relate to each other, and still relate to us now and in 60 years, if we do not listen to this quote, we will be having this conversation once again.