American classic: University students perform "The Crucible" at River Campus

Friday, November 2, 2012
Southeast Missouri State University students Sami Gross (Abigail Williams), foreground, Erin Simmons (Ann Putnam) and Andrew Gehrlin (The. Rev Samuel Parris) rehearse a scene from “The Crucible” Monday at the Rust Flexible Theater at the River Campus. (Laura Simon)
Ann Putnam played by Erin Simmons sits beside Betty Parris played by Megan Walton as Reverend Samuel Parris played by Andrew Gehrlin, left, speaks with Thomas Putnam played by Mike Burrell Monday, Oct. 299, 2012 during rehearsal for Southeast Missouri State University's production of The Crucible. (Laura Simon)

Southeast Missouri State University theater students will tackle an American classic when they perform Arthur Miller's Tony Award-winning drama "The Crucible" starting next week.

Miller's play will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Nov. 10 at the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre at the River Campus, with other performances scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 9 and 2 p.m. Nov. 10 to 11.

A central work in the canon of American drama, "The Crucible" was first presented on Broadway in 1953.

A dramatization of the Salem witch trials of the early 1690s, Miller wrote it as a parallel to the anti-communist crusades of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House of Representative's Committee on Un-American Activities. Miller was inspired to write the play after talking with his friend and colleague Elia Kazan, who had appeared before the committee in the early 1950s.

"Miller saw a lot of his friends taken down on allegation alone," said Dr. Philip Nacy, chairman of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast. "It was his way of saying that the committee, along with McCarthy, were engaging in political witch hunts. Most people, including Miller's detractors, could see the play was centered on how the politics of the time was ruining people's lives, but with it set in the 1600s he was sort of able to get away with it."

The production received the Tony Award for Best Play of 1953, and Miller himself was subpoenaed to testify before the House committee in 1956. During his testimony he refused to give names of friends and colleagues with political leanings similar to his, and as a result was found guilty of contempt of Congress and sentenced to 30 days in prison. He was also blacklisted within the playwriting community. In 1958, his conviction was overturned on appeal.

Nacy said when Miller was exposed to the court of public opinion in the 1950s, everything happened so fast for him. In 2012, things would've happened much faster.

"If you're accused of anything," he said, "it's on the Internet almost immediately. There could be absolutely no fact or basis behind an allegation, but all of a sudden a person's reputation is ruined, and the burden of proof shifts from the accuser to the accused. That's what Miller was writing about. That's why the message of this play is needed as much now as when it was written."

A play of this caliber is not often presented to the public, and Amy Fritsche, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance and director of "The Crucible," said the production has been both a thrill and a chore.

"I've always been in love with it," Fritsche said, "but it's not an easy play. The actors, however, have jumped into it with a lot of energy and a sense of history, and I couldn't be more proud of them. Everybody is doing the absolute best they can."

Tickets are on sale for $15. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the River Campus Box Office at 651-2265, or online at rivercampusevents.com. The box office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Want to go?

What: "The Crucible"

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Nov. 10, 10 a.m. Nov. 9 and 2 p.m. Nov. 10-11

Where: Rust Flexible Theatre

Info: 651-2265, rivercampusevents.com

Pertinent address:

518 S. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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