‘The Crucible’ to open Feb. 19 at Syracuse Stage
Timothy Douglas returns to Syracuse to direct Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” which will run at Syracuse Stage from Feb. 19-March 22. Douglas is well known to Syracuse audiences for his direction of such acclaimed productions as “Jitney,” ” A Lesson Before Dying” and “Blues for an Alabama Sky.” The role of Mary Warren, a young girl caught up in the witch-hunt, is being played by Drama Department senior Tamara E. Johnson. Her powerful audition earned her not only this pivotal role but also her Actors’ Equity Association membership, a professional status that many actors spend several years working towards.
” ‘The Crucible” stands on its own as one of the most passionate and articulate plays which has, as its theatrical foundation, a constant thrust of intellectual ideas,” says. “It is a quintessentially American play; the characters honor their ideals by dishonoring others.”
Miller wrote “The Crucible” in 1953 in response to the McCarthy hearings. Using the Salem witch trials as a framework, the play is a cautionary tale of the dangers of rumor, arrogance and mob hysteria. John Proctor’s affair with the young Abigail wounds his wife, but his ultimate rejection of Abigail leads to accusations of witchcraft against his wife. Gradually the entire community is caught up in a morass of lies and counter accusations that eventually draw in Proctor. Rabid and closed-minded judges from outside the community arrive to try Proctor and the other “witches,” forcing Proctor to choose between expediency and his conscience.
Douglas, associate artistic director of the prestigious Actors Theatre of Louisville, has chosen a racially diverse cast for the production. ” ‘The Crucible’ is a play about persecution and the response to that persecution,” he says. “I think that a response to persecution cannot come with any more authenticity than through the descendants of African slaves. Just seeing African American actors onstage and speaking the text is automatically going to heighten the ear of the listener. No matter how well they may think they know this play, audience members are going to hear new things.”
Many of the actors will be familiar to Syracuse audiences. The lead role of John Proctor will be played by Ray Anthony Thomas, who was seen last fall as Stealy in August Wilson’s “Jitney.” Other Syracuse Stage alumni will include Doug Brown, Johnny Lee Davenport, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson, Larry John Meyers and Malcolm Ingram, a professor in the Drama Department.
Three drama students will play young women of Salem: senior Emily Agy, sophomore Ariel Dupas and junior Renee Threatte. SU sophomore Markiss Simpson will also appear.
Set Designer Tony Cisek, whose work has been seen at Syracuse Stage in “Blues for an Alabama Sky” and “A Lesson Before Dying,” has created a spare wooden set. Looming over the entire space is a wooden grid suspended by nooses, and various entrances from above and below the stage accommodate such different locales as bedroom to courtroom to prison. Michael Gilliam’s evocative lighting will expose the cracks in the wooden flooring and Tracy Dorman’s costumes represent the world of 17th century Salem.
Miller, now in his late 80s, continues to write and lecture throughout the country; his plays, including the greatest living American playwright, ranks with Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams as one of the leading dramatists of the 20th Century. His plays, including “All My Sons,” “A View from the Bridge,” “After the Fall” and the Pulitzer-prize winning “Death of a Salesman” are read, taught and performed throughout the country.
As part of a community-wide effort to promote the reading of Miller’s work, Syracuse Stage will present readings and discussions of “The Crucible” Feb. 10 and Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble in DeWitt.
Corporate sponsors of “The Crucible” are the Central New York Community Foundation, Niagara Mohawk Foundation, EBS (Excellus Benefit Services) and Alliance Bank. Media sponsors are The Pride, The Business Journal, Urban CNY and Y94.
Tickets for “The Crucible” are now on sale at the Syracuse Stage box office, by phone at 443-3275 or online at syracusestage.org. Prices range from $16-$40 and group discounts are available.