Students delivered a riveting rendition of “The Crucible” during six performances last week at the Morita-Sony Theatre at Cooke Learning Commons. The Punahou Theatre Department production of Arthur Miller’s literary and theatrical classic captured a dark moment of American history, when suspicion and hysteria led to tragedy among the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony with the Salem Witch Trials.
Here is director Bryce Chaddick’s recap of what it took to put on the production:
“This was a pretty ambitious and experimental undertaking. In less than seven weeks, three student designers and a cast of 22, along with me, Chris Patrinos (set design) and Anna Foster (costumes), build a completely immersive, 360-degree interpretation of ‘The Crucible.’ Together, we created the town of Salem, Massachusetts, with skeletal households of all the featured characters in the play. For the first act, the main sequence of events is played out in various homes; the entire town moves on silently about their business, their individual story-paths unraveling as the plot unfolds. An audience member could look to their right and see the town doctor concocting new elixirs; look forward to see the minister praying for his congregation; look to the left to see a neighbor farmers in a land dispute; and look behind to see the town judge meeting with victims of witchcraft. The second act, flipped the entire theatre around, placing the audience in the seats of the court-house as the infamous witch trials ensues, asking us to be judge and jury to the proceedings. At two of the most climactic moments of the play, just as hysteria and blame erupts to the boiling point, suspenseful music and eerie lighting freezes the action, and the actors look out and lock eyes with an unsettled audience, suggesting that we are all in this together, we are all culpable and capable of bringing about social chaos, whether through our indifference and complacency or from our passive seat in the dark of a theatre.
“Arthur Miller’s language is incredibly challenging, but the students rose to the occasion, putting on suspenseful performances for parents, students, faculty and staff. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this project for me was the conversations we got to have with the cast and crew about the historical events on which the play is based (in 1692, social panic led to the accusation of hundreds of suspected witches with over 20 being wrongfully executed), our current political climate and several other moments in world history where logic was manipulated to justify atrocities. Theatre truly is one of the most priceless forums in which to make history and literature tangible. And these kids dove into the deep end!”
Photos by Randy Brandt