The Salem Witch Hunts hold a unique place in American history. It’s a tale of fear, suspicion and extremism that is hard to comprehend today.
Kodiak theater goers will have an opportunity to get a better grasp on what that period was like this weekend as the Kodiak Arts Council presents Arthur Miller’s 1953 play “The Crucible.”
Director Jared Griffin told KMXT’s Maggie Wall that “this is less of a play and more of an experience,” and that theatre-goers should expect to become anxious and tense as they get caught up in the drama.
Click triangle below to listen, or go further down to read an edited transcript of the conversation.
Edited transcript of discussion between KMXT’s Maggie Wall and ‘The Crucible’ director Jared Griffin.
It’s about the Salem witch trials and 1692. And I know there’s a lot in the news right now about witch hunts. And this was the original witch hunt in on American soil. And so it’s about the hysteria, the anxiety. The tension in a small, rural community. What happens when people just start accusing people of witchcraft and it just spirals out of control. Everybody’s accusing everybody, and so it reveals a lot about fear and anger and anxiety and about living in this new place.
And so this is a different theatrical experience. From what I’ve heard of audiences who watched it last weekend. This is not your high school version of the crucible. This version of the crucible is intended to also make you anxious and a little tense. And so this is less of a play and more of a theatrical experience.
Q: So who are the actors?
Oh my gosh, we have a cast of 24. And so Wes Hannah plays John Proctor. Bianca Clark plays Elizabeth Proctor his wife. We have some newcomers. Jeremy McBride, who plays Reverend Paris, is the first one to kind of discover witchcraft in his house. Roy Thomas plays Reverend Hale who is brought in to root out the witches.
And the stars of the show are the kids are the Salem teenagers, the girls who start the town on this path of accusations. (Including Acacia Birbilas as Abigail Williams.)
Q: Now this is based on history. Is it historically accurate or is it just to give us a feel of what it was like during that period?
Oh, Arthur Miller wrote it and he wrote it in the early 1950s. And he did his research, he made it as historically accurate as possible to tell, you know, to tell a story in just over two hours. So a lot of the characters are historical characters, based on historic the historical character, he, you know, took some liberties here and there nothing too big like he combined the characters.
The original Abigail Williams, who was played by Acacia was historical she was only 11 or 12. But in the play, she’s 17and e a lot of historical people aren’t in the play, too. So he really know tried to pare it down. But in terms of the, the timeline of the events are historical. He even tried to capture as close to the language as possible to so.
Q: This play is a classic. Why is that? What How did it get that reputation?
It got its reputation because of its association with the Red Scare and the 1950s to the McCarthy hearings. And Arthur Miller has indicated that he wrote this play as a response to himself being called in front of the, the Committee on UnAmerican Activities, something like that. And asking to, rat out his friends.
Q: And accusations of communism, you know, were everywhere, especially among actors and Hollywood and creative people.
Exactly. And so he took offense to that and kind of wrote this play as a response and showing that the McCarthy hearings were part of this long American tradition. Of people just being scared of others. And so, that’s where it’s kind of got its reputation–for being a response to that.
And then it just took off on Broadway won Tony’s and, and then is one of the most produced plays in the United States still 50 years later, over 50 years later.
“The Crucible” is a production of the Kodiak Arts Council. Showings are Fri. and Sat. at 7 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.