Exit 22 puts on a production of the Crucible
// Christina Blakeborough

In the past around Valentine’s Day, Capilano University has hosted romantic productions such as the lighthearted Ring Around the Moon, and the tragic tale of love gone sour, Medea. However, this year, there is not a speck of romance in sight: from Feb. 15 to 18, Exit 22 productions will present The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller about false accusations gone awry.

Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953. The play is based on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, where 19 men and women were convicted of witchcraft and hanged in the Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts.

The play begins with a group of teenage girls hiding out in the forest to go dancing and drinking together. As a result, citizens in the town start rumours that the girls are involved in witchcraft. To get themselves out of their predicament, the girls accuse others of witchcraft, and the situation then escalates.

The themes in The Crucible are very much influenced by the prevalence of McCarthyism in Miller’s life. The term McCarthyism was derived from the actions of American senator Joseph McCarthy, but it is a word commonly used to describe the anti-communist political climate of the time.

In the ‘50s, the US government sought to eradicate any communist thought in America by blacklisting anyone under suspicion of being involved the political left, among other actions. Many people in the arts, including Miller, Charlie Chaplin, and others were ultimately blacklisted, which went on to impact their careers. The Salem witch hunts brought forth misused power, and the same occurred when McCarthyism existed in the United States.

Director of The Crucible, Stuart Aikins, feels that the themes in The Crucible are also still relevant today: “Power corrupts, and the use of fear to control is an everyday political reality,” he says. Aikins explains that there’s only one difference when comparing power and fear in 1692 to 2012: “Everybody is used to it.”

Sometimes, directors like to take their own approach to a classic story and make it their own, but Aikins and his assistant director, P. Lynn Johnson did the opposite of that, while trying to maintain a strong meaning behind the production. Both Aikins and Johnson “worked hard to clarify the text and drive home a real and grounded story about vengeance and the misuse of power, but keeping it very human,” Aikins says.

Of course, producing a play that was supposed to represent the time period of the Salem Witch Trials certainly isn’t an easy task: “The language is very different than how we speak today,” explains Aikins.

With Salem being a small place, Aikins wanted to “maintain a sense of the smallness” throughout the play, which was difficult since that meant the space was “very tight, and sometimes that creates difficulty staging the acts.”

Atkins says that the value of the experience for him has been “learning to tell a wonderfully deep and layered story that entertains,” and he hopes you, the audience, are “entertained and have an enjoyable three hours.”

The Crucible will take place at the North Shore Credit Union Centre for the Performing Arts Theatre. The play will be showing Feb. 15, 16, 17, and 18. All shows start at 8pm except for one 2pm show on Feb. 18. Ticket prices range from $8 – $22.

//Christina Blakeborough, writer
//Graphics by Desiree Wallace

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