Students of the Theatre and Design Department hoped to create a fearful theatrical experience for show attendees with their performances of “The Crucible” this past weekend.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point production members utilized various outlets, such as the actors, scene design and lighting, to captivate the audience and to expose the dynamic characters and layers of lies within the play.
“The Crucible” was written in 1953 by American playwright Arthur Miller during an era where fear and paranoia of communism gripped America.
“The reason the play has stood the test of time is because the meaning for fear is left open-ended. It is up for audience interpretation,” said senior acting major Alex Gudding.
Gudding added that the allegory of “The Crucible” referenced Senator McCarthy in the 1950s and his fear of communism.
The plot is centered on the hysteria the Salem witch trials brought during the late 1600s.
“The play was using history as a vent for the McCarthy era,” said Ashley Stock senior theatre technology and design major.
As the play unfolded, the audience witnessed how fear crippled the character’s perspective of their neighbors and themselves.
“The idea of the story is that fear left unchecked can destroy people’s lives and an entire society. The audience is left to draw the conclusion on what that fear is about,” Gudding said.
This ambiguous fear was present in the stage design itself. Slender bare trees surrounded the frantic cast throughout the show.
“I wanted to portray their fear coming into their lives and grabbing them and they don’t even know it,” said junior technology and design major Emily Kaufman.
The forest was the embodiment of the cast’s fear. Kaufman arranged the trees so they crouched over the cast and invaded their homes and courtrooms.
The other essential part of the scene was the roof. Kaufman said she designed it to articulate into different rooms during the show. Kaufman said the roof was held up by a rope which represented the noose man’s rope. Kaufman said it demonstrated the fear of death that was hovering above the character’s homes.
Lighting techniques enhanced the expressions of the scene design and actors.
“We want the audience to be captivated by the characters. The lighting subconsciously expresses the mood,” Stock said.
Stock added that all of these elements combined create a concept that people in theater aim for which is catharsis or the purging of emotion.
The cast of “The Crucible” wanted to make the characters believable and relatable to evoke this catharsis. Junior acting major Kelsey Yudice played Abigail Williams.
“Playing Abigail was the hardest role I did in college,” Yudice said. “I went about it carefully because she is the antagonist, the villain. I had to believe her perspective was right. If I didn’t believe it the audience wouldn’t.”
Gudding played John Proctor and also had to adapt for his role.
“He is often seen as the loose angry cannon. It was seeing him more as a compassionate person who cared about the morality of society even though he faltered in his own morality,” Gudding said.
Further showings of “The Crucible” are March 6-8 at 7:30 p.m. in Jenkins Theater.