GHS Drama Club presents Miller's 'The Crucible'

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Thu., Nov. 10, 2011
Betty (Allison Reilly) appears to be possessed by the devil as Abigail (Heather DeWick, left) tries to calm her. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Betty (Allison Reilly) appears to be possessed by the devil as Abigail (Heather DeWick, left) tries to calm her. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

The heat of a furnace hot enough to melt metals does not alter the crucible – the container designed to hold the molten metal and survive the flame intact. Even the title of Arthur Miller’s classic play, “The Crucible,” serves as an allegory. The “trial by fire” his characters must endure poses a question: how will they respond to the fatal hysteria that is sweeping their community? Will they be destroyed, or will they come through with their moral core intact?

Griswold High School’s Drama Club is producing the play this weekend, Nov. 10-12. Director Timothy Moore said that the play is part of the school’s English curriculum, studied by juniors in literature class.

“The Crucible” begins as rumors of witchcraft begin to buzz in the piously Christian 17th-century village of Salem, Mass. Before long, fingers begin to point at “witches” who are quite clearly innocent of the charge. A swirl of dark secrets, personal sorrows and burning ambitions help to stir the pot, until every citizen is caught up in the unfolding tragedy.

Bringing the words to life on the stage, with their peers portraying the characters, enhances the learning process for students, Moore said. “It’s nice because the students can come down and see a three-dimensional representation of what they’re studying,” he said.

Miller based his play on the historical trials, which actually took place in several central Massachusetts towns. Before the trials were over, 29 people were convicted of practicing witchcraft, considered a capitol felony at that time, and 19 were hanged.

Moore said the play, written in 1951, is widely seen as an allegory for the McCarthy trials, which fed off the high emotions of the post-World War II “Red Scare.” U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, in his zeal to eradicate Communism, cast a wide net in accusing thousands of citizens of being Communists or having Communist leanings. At hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, many prominent “suspects” were coerced into implicating others in hopes of saving their own careers.

Just as in the play, “everybody’s pressured to squeal,” said Moore. “Arthur Miller was a victim. He was called to testify.”
After “The Crucible” was staged, Miller’s refusal to name names of “fellow Communists” led to a charge of contempt of Congress, a passport denial and blacklisting.

Moore, who teaches English and has directed seven previous plays at GHS, said the play’s cast of 19 actors includes a number of those new to the boards. “For quite a few people, it’s their first time in a straight dramatic production,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to teach them the basics of stagecraft.”

But the play also features some GHS drama veterans, notably Cody Barber and Cassy Dascomb in the central roles of husband and wife John and Elizabeth Proctor. “They’re both in their fourth year with me,” Moore said. “All these kids are acting their hearts out.”

“The Crucible” will be presented at GHS on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10-12, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 per person; admission is free with a military ID.


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