The Crucible
Feb. 24-27 & March 3-6, 2005
Directed by Nina LeNoir
Scenic Design by Tom Bliese
Costume Design by Esther Iverson
Lighting Design by Steven Smith


Tituba (Akia Shenise Fleming, kneeling) beseeches her god to help Betty Parris (Ashley FitzSimmons, center).
Joining in are, left to right: Reverend Parris (Steve Corona), Abigail Williams (Angelyn Eve Faust),
Giles Corey (Perry Thrun), Reverend Hale (Trick Danneker) and Ann Putnam (Laura Nigon).


Abigail Williams (Angelyn Eve Faust) hushes Betty Parris (Ashley FitzSimmons) while Mercy Lewis
(Amber Maser) and Mary Warren (Laura Yost) look on.


Reverend Hale (Trick Danneker) speaks with Frances Nurse (Jason Kruger).
Watching is Giles Corey (Perry Thrun).


Elizabeth Procter (Erin J. Drevlow) pleads for the city fathers to have mercy. They are,
left to right: Mary Warren (Laura Yost), John Proctor (Christopher Arn Kind), Reverend Hale (Trick Danneker),
Giles Corey (Perry Thrun), Cheever (Chris Kuisle) and John Willard (Tharen E. Callanan).


Abigail Williams (Angelyn Eve Faust) pleads for help. With her are Susanna Walcott (Ashley Bracken) and
Mercy Lewis (Amber Maser); Judge Hathorne (Nathaniel Churchill) watches.


Deputy Governor Danforth (Matthew C. Atwood) presides over the trial.


Danforth finds John Proctor guilty.


Proctor is led off.

Witches, Justice and The Crucible

In October 2005, 84 witches who had been executed in Prestonpans, Scotland, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century were formally and solemnly pardoned. According to local historian Roy Pugh, “It's too late to apologize but it's a sort of symbolic recognition that these people were put to death for hysterical ignorance and paranoia” (“Scottish”).

Hysterical ignorance and paranoia, unfortunately, are still very much with us, as is the desire to affix blame for our own misfortunes on people other than ourselves. The Crucible, originally produced on Broadway in 1953, remains a parable of human nature at its most destructive. Arthur Miller wrote the play at the height of the McCarthy era, a time when the witches being hunted in America were Communists and the phrase “Are you now or have you ever been . . .” struck terror in the hearts of many, particularly left-leaning artists and intellectuals. Much like the confessions of the witches in the play, accused Communists could “confess” and, to seal their confessions, were required to name others. Miller refused to do so, but others, including his close friend and the director of Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Elia Kazan, did. That action destroyed the bond that had existed between the two close friends.

Miller himself has reflected on the continued timeliness of the play, noting that it is often produced when a country is undergoing political repression and fanaticism is imminent, and that “the Salem interrogations turn out to be eerily exact models of those yet to come in Stalin's Russia, Pinochet's Chile, Mao's China, and other regimes.” He notes that “below its concerns with justice the play evokes a lethal brew of illicit sexuality, fear of the supernatural, and political manipulation, a combination not unfamiliar these days” (Miller 164).

Hysterical ignorance and paranoia are also a lethal brew, as the play will show. Witches in the seventeenth century were considered quite real. The Bible exhorts that “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” thereby affirming the existence of witches and commanding their destruction. But there is no proof against demonic possession or against consorting with the devil, and thus no evidence that can be challenged in court. The word of a victim was enough to hang any woman or man so accused. And to deny the existence of witches would be to deny the truth of the word of God, a contention worth one's life. Salem in 1692 was a perilous place, where the word of a little child could bring about one's death.

The Crucible continues to be a classic of the American stage, raising questions as resonant for the twenty-first century as the seventeenth. The play continues to be studied in classrooms and produced on stages across the world. It is an honor to bring the play to the MSU stage for the first time.

– Nina LeNoir

Sources:
Miller, Arthur. “Why I Wrote The Crucible: An Artist’s Answer to Politics.” The New Yorker 21 Oct. 1996. 158-64.
“Scottish Town to Pardon Witches.” USA Today. 30 October 2004. 7 Feb. 2005 <http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2004-10-30-witches-pardoned_x.htm>.

 

Photos by Mike Lagerquist