BWW Previews: THE CRUCIBLE at Theatre Baton Rouge
Arthur Miller's classic 1953 play, THE CRUCIBLE will explore a community filled with fear, distrust and hysteria at Theatre Baton Rouge as part of the theatre's 2019-20 Capital Series.
Directed by George Judy, this American classic tells a fictionalized story of the notorious witch trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17th century. In THE CRUCIBLE, a group of young girls caught dancing in the woods experience violent fits, allegedly tormented by Satan and the witches who worship him. Accusations soon multiply that unravel the community, resulting in the persecution of innocent people.
"It is a community that is terribly frightened of evil the idea of an embodied evil in witchcraft," Judy said. "Today we might find some of that laughable in the terms that we no longer believe in witches, but at this time the idea of witches and the embodiment of evil was a terrifying reality for a society governed by the church."
Although Arthur Miller's allegory is set during Colonial times, Judy explains that they're not being entirely authentic to the time period and will create a theatrical world using sound and music that will capture the audience's attention.
"I think the play has a sort of a universal feel to it," Judy said. "It has a significant weight to it, and I think it needs to be enlivened for contemporary audiences to really come along for the ride."
The story centers on the relationship between farmer John Proctor (Kenneth Mayfield) and his wife Elizabeth (Jenny Ballard) who are faced with hardship when young Abigail Williams (Caroline Fedducia) accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft to have Proctor all to herself. Things take a turn for the worst as Proctor attempts to prove his wife's innocence and is then accused of being a witch himself. Traditionally, productions of THE CRUCIBLE put the sole focus on Proctor and his journey, but for TBR, the focus will be on the community in Salem and fixing the community while also dealing with one's guilt when all rationale is otherwise lost.
"Today as I read the play I read it much more as a community play where the women are speaking out and the men are forced to confront their own issues so it becomes less about a single journey and the evolution of a whole community," Judy said.
This will be Judy's first time directing THE CRUCIBLE. Judy has always been intrigued by Miller's work with its powerful and disturbing themes that are akin to "a Greek play." Written during the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, Miller's play draws parallels between McCarthy-era hysteria over communism with the same fear that eventually led to the Salem witch trials. According to Judy, the parallels can be seen even today.
"Our own society has become so divided we can barely talk to one another anymore," Judy said. "We've just hardened our views that we can hardly listen to each other anymore. We just vilify each other as we go. I think that with a breakdown in community and that sense of loss and isolation...it makes those points of view harden even further."
THE CRUCIBLE runs Thursdays through Sundays Sept. 20-Oct 6. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. An additional 2 p.m. matinee will be held on Sept. 28. Tickets are $26, $20 for students, at (225) 924-6496 or theatrebr.org.