State College Community Theatre to Perform 'The Crucible'
One of the strangest episodes in American history will come to life this weekend at the State Theatre when the State College Community Theatre presents Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”
The play will run July 19, 20, 26, 27, Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.
Under the direction of SCCT veteran Marilyn Knoffsinger, the play features 20 characters, all Puritans in 17th century Salem, Mass.
The familiar story of a town paralyzed by fear, intolerance and injustice has become a morality tale and a warning in the 323 years since the events of the winter of 1692 unfolded. It began with a group of adolescent girls, possibly bored with the constraints of Puritan life, who systematically began to fall into fits of fainting, screaming and generally writhing around as though tortured.
Abigail Williams, Betty Parris, Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren, among others, accused various townspeople of having “bewitched” them. By the year’s end, they had accused 200, and seen executed, 20 of their own community.
Knoffsinger refers to the incident as “a timeless reminder of how intolerance and hysteria can feed each other and destroy a community.”
Her dedicated cast seems to take it as their duty to demonstrate the importance of this message.
A 15-year-old, Jordan Santillo, plays Abigail Williams, the initial accuser in Miller’s play. Miller has taken liberties with the story, creating Williams as a love interest for farmer John Proctor, played by Samuel Reitman.
“She has a big personality,” Santillo said, “but this is dark and intense overall.”
Williams and her friends, Betty Parris (Caitlin Rokavec), Mercy Lewis (Jordan Sugg) and Mary Warren (Deb Gilmore) close the first scene with a chilling reminder of how a mob forms its mentality. In shrill, detached voices they call out one name after another, claiming each individual has cursed them. The adults can only watch in horror, envisioning Satan in their midst.
If the girls show us the dangers of hysteria, Proctor undergoes his own moral redemption.
“He’s conflicted,” Reitman observed. “He’s been unfaithful to his wife with Abigail, but he tries to better himself.”
Proctor’s conflict becomes more apparent when he finds himself accused and facing death.
“It’s his make-or-break moment,” Reitman said.
Another fascinating character, Tituba, played by Rachel Moon, adds an exotic flavor to this Puritan society. Tituba, a slave owned by Samuel Parris (Stacy Sublett), has “conjured” spells with the girls. Or has she? Once accused, she confesses, possibly knowing that she won’t face the gallows if she says what everyone wants to hear. Moon said she'd never heard of Tituba before she took on the role. But she has made the Barbados accent her own and her gestures have an arresting quality.
“I hope I can do her justice,” she commented. “She’s usually played by an African-American.”
While Tituba finds a way to escape the gallows, others accused don’t. And Knoffsinger hopes audiences will leave the theatre knowing that.
“May they strive to change themselves,” she said, “and by changing themselves they can help change a small piece of today’s world.”
IF YOU GO
Who: State College Community Theatre
What: Arthur Miller's “The Crucible”
When: July 19, 20, 26 and 27, 8 p.m. (select matinees at 2 p.m.)
Where: State Theatre, downtown State College
Tickets: $20, $16 Seniors 62 and over, $16 Students with ID, $16 Children 17 and under (Plus $2 ticketing fee per ticket)
More info: www.thestatetheatre.org