Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE Hits Close to Home at Theatricum Botanicum
A parable of mass hysteria that draws a chilling parallel between the Salem witch hunts of 1692 and McCarthyism, which gripped America in the 1950s, The Crucible by Arthur Miller remains eerily timely in today's climate of fake news. Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum, its own history firmly rooted in the McCarthy-era Hollywood blacklist - when actor Will Geer and his wife, Herta Ware, created the theater as a haven for blacklisted actors - opens a new production of Miller's modern classic onJune 30. Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer, Will's daughter, is at the helm, with family members Thad Geer,Willow Geer and Melora Marshall featured in the cast.The story of how the small community of Salem is stirred into madness by superstition, paranoia and malice offers a frightening depiction of what can happen when fear clouds fact and reason is replaced by blame. The play is a savage attack on the evils of mindless persecution and the terrifying power of false accusations. When New England farmer John Proctor (Christopher W. Jones) and his wife Elizabeth (Willow Geer) dismiss their young domestic, Abigail Williams (Bethany Koulias), she seeks revenge. Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft - a serious accusation in the highly-charged political and social atmosphere of 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. Also in the cast are Kate Adams and Maya Brattkus (alternating in the role of Mary Warren), Gabbi Beauvais (Betty Parris), Thad Geer (Giles Corey), Cindy Guastaferro (Ann Putnam), Tim Halligan (Thomas Putnam), Mark Lewis (Reverend Samuel Parris), Melora Marshall (Rebecca Nurse), Franc Ross(Deputy Governor John Danforth), Jacquelin Schofield(Tituba), David Stifel (Francis Nurse), Frank Weidner (Reverend John Hale) and Laura Zenoni (Mercy Lewis). Ensemble members include Jessamyn Arnstein,Tavis L. Baker, Elizabeth George, Ethan Haslam, Holly Hawk, Caitlin Kilgore, Gabriel Anthony Palma, Brandi Lynn Reinhard and Lawrence Sonderling.Arthur Miller's most produced play, The Crucible originally opened at Broadway's Martin Beck Theatre on January 22, 1953, winning the Tony Award for best play. It also had a successful off-Broadway production that ran for 571 performances in 1957-58. In 1996, Mr. Miller wrote the screen adaptation that starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Joan Allen and Paul Scofield and was nominated for an Academy Award. Miller (Oct. 17, 1915 - Feb. 10, 2005) is credited, along with Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams, with putting American drama on the map of world theater. Many of the major themes covered in his work are as current and topical now as when he first began writing for the stage. In addition to The Crucible (1953), Miller's plays include The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944), All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), After the Fall (1964), Incident at Vichy (1964), The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), The Archbishop's Ceiling(1977) and The American Clock (1980). Later plays include The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), The Last Yankee (1993), Broken Glass (1994), Mr. Peters' Connections (1998), Resurrection Blues (2002) and Finishing the Picture (2004). Mr. Miller wrote the screenplays for The Misfits (1961) and Everybody Wins(1990) and the screen adaptation of The Crucible (Academy Award nomination, 1997), as well as the teleplay for the Emmy Award-winning television film Playing for Time (1980). His books include "Situation Normal," "In Russia," "Chinese Encounters," "Salesman in Beijing," his acclaimed memoir "Timebends," and "Focus," which was the basis for a 2001 feature film. He twice won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, received two Emmy awards and three Tony Awards for his plays, as well as a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Pulitzer Prize (for Death of a Salesman). He also won an Obie award, a BBC Best Play Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, a Gold Medal for Drama from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Literary Lion Award from the New York Public Library, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Algur Meadows Award. Original music and sound design for Theatricum's production of The Crucible are by Marshall McDaniel, costume design is by Amy Mazzaferro, lighting design is by Zach Moore and the prop master is Sydney Russell. Kim Cameron is the production stage manager. With its one-of-a-kind outdoor setting in the heart of Topanga Canyon, Theatricum is best known for its productions that frame contemporary social issues through the lens of classic literature. The Crucible will run in repertory with Theatricum productions of Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (opening June 2); Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (opening June 3); The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold (joining the season on June 30); and a rare revival of Haiti by William DuBois, originally presented by the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project in 1938 (kicking off on July 28). All five mainstage productions will play in repertory through Sept. 30. Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum, using a company of actors, will perform each of the plays in repertory, making it possible to see all five mainstage plays in a single summer weekend. Theatricum Botanicum has been named "One of the 50 Coolest Places in Los Angeles" by Buzz magazine, "One of Southern California's most beguiling theater experiences" by Sunset magazine, and "Best Theater in the Woods" by the LA Weekly. "The enchantment of a midsummer night at Theatricum Botanicum [makes it] crystal clear why audiences have been driving up into the hills since Theatricum's maiden season way back in 1973. Summer Shakespeare doesn't get any better than this," writes Stage Scene LA. Says Los Angeles magazine, "The amphitheater feels like a Lilliputian Hollywood Bowl, with pre-show picnics and puffy seat cushions, yet we were close enough to see the stitching on the performers costumes. Grab a blanket and a bottle and head for the hills." In 2017, Theatricum was named "one of the best outdoor theaters around the world" by the Daily Beast. Theatricum's beginnings can be traced to the early 1950s when Will Geer, a victim of the McCarthy era Hollywood blacklist (before he became known as the beloved Grandpa on The Waltons), opened a theater for blacklisted actors and folk singers on his property in Topanga. Friends such as Ford Rainey, John Randolph and Woody Guthrie joined him on the dirt stage for vigorous performances and inspired grassroots activism, while the audiences sat on railroad ties. Today, two outdoor amphitheaters are situated in the natural canyon ravine, where audiences are able to relax and enjoy the wilderness during an afternoon or evening's performance. Theatricum's main stage amphitheater sports a new and improved sun shade for increased audience comfort, installed with support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Ralph M. Parson's Foundation. Theatricum is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Margaret Harford Award for "sustained excellence," which is the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's highest honor. The amphitheater is terraced into the hillside, so audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Patrons are welcome to arrive early and picnic before a performance. The Crucible opens on Saturday, June 16 at 8 p.m. and continues through Sept. 30. Tickets range from $10 - $38.50; children 4 and under are free. Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310-455-3723 or visit www.theatricum.com. Visit Theatricum on facebook:www.facebook.com/theatricum. Follow us on twitter: @theatricum and instagram: @theatricum_botanicum.