This Halloween, students will be invited on a witch hunt with members of the undergraduate theater community.
“The Crucible,” written by Arthur Miller, opens tomorrow night at the Off-Broadway Theatre. Penned during the 1950s, the play is set in colonial Massachusetts during the Salem witch hunts — when members of the community accused each other of witchcraft, leading to a number of incarcerations and even executions. The play was written as a social commentary on the 20th-century Red Scare when Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy falsely accused many of harboring communist beliefs. Noam Shapiro ’15, the show’s director, said that the ruthlessness of the prosecutors and eagerness of the neighbors to turn against each other in the play provides insight into many aspects of human nature.
“This particular production looks at what happens when a community falls apart and how a community, on one hand, strengthens itself by creating a sense of camaraderie and, on another, also eats itself from within,” Shapiro said. “That is what happened in both circumstances: You had friends and neighbors turning on each other.”
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With 24 total actors and actresses, the play features the largest undergraduate cast of the semester. Aviva Abusch ’18, the production’s stage manager, noted that several of the principle roles in the show are being played by freshmen.
Shapiro said actors will initially be sitting amongst audience members and will, at certain points in the show, stand up and become a part of the show. He explained that by having the actors in the audience, the audience members will be able to actively engage in the drama.
“When you visit the show, you immediately become a part of the community,” said Shapiro. “You’re not just a spectator, but you’re also a participant in the story and in the theatrical creation of this show.”
Shapiro said the production uses collaborative story theater, a process in which all of the actors are involved in every aspect of the show. All of the actors are needed to light the show, to create the different effects and to move the different sets, he noted.
All ensemble members interviewed emphasized the collaborative nature of the show’s creative process. Abusch mentioned that every actor personally met with the director to go over the thought process of his or her character as well as how the character is tied to the whole story.
“So much of the rehearsal time has been spent really picking out the details and emotions of the characters’ beings at every moment,” Abusch said.
Cast members interviewed said that the play was originally set to be performed in Connecticut Hall or Marquand Chapel in order to more closely match the play’s setting. Shapiro said that although the play is now taking place in the Off-Broadway Theater, the space will no longer look like a regular theater, but instead will look like a communal meeting hall.
Laurel Lehman ’17, the show’s producer, said that in order to stay true to the time period in which the play is set, the production design was conceived through a minimalistic approach. Shapiro explained that actors will be using flashlights on stage instead of traditional lighting and that sound effects will be created using various household objects. The play will also incorporate various Puritan hymns throughout the show in order to more accurately reflect the era.
“The nature of the production is bare bones,” Lehman said. “I think it’s theater at its rawest, and at that point, I also think its theater at its rarest.”
Twenty people were executed during the Salem witch trials.