Relevant themes and issues lead Bluffton to stage “The Crucible”
Written in the early 1950s and staged in 1959 for the first time at Bluffton, “The Crucible” will return to campus Nov. 2-5 as the 2017 fall play. The dramatic story details the 1692 Salem witch trials when accusations of witchcraft in the insular Puritan village led to paranoia, hysteria and deceit. Arthur Miller’s play also served as an allegory for Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusades during the “Red Scare.”
“The themes presented in the play are sadly relevant still today,” said Dr. Melissa Friesen, professor of theatre and communication and Mary Nord Ignat and Joseph Ignat Chair in Theatre.
“We are often afraid of what we don’t understand,” she elaborated. “Fear can take over our sense of rationality and logic in some cases. In the play, it happens with the witchcraft hysteria. Something is happening that the people of Salem do not understand, so they respond out of fear. Those accused of witchcraft in the play must choose whether to confess to a crime they did not commit in order to save their own lives or die asserting their innocence.”
In the 1950s, the spread of communism served as the parallel for the fear of witchcraft.
“People were called to stand before Congress to question whether or not they were part of the Communist Party, and Congress was asking for names, very similar to what was asked of those accused during the events of witch trials,” said Friesen.
Today, questions surrounding how truth is sought and being “an insider or outsider” are easily amplified and spread through social media. Misinformation and honest mistakes can lead to suffering and harm.
The campus community is currently engaged in these discussions with “Integrity, Truth, Virtue: Bluffton’s Honor Code in the World” selected as the Civic Engagement theme for the year. The theme is routinely addressed in campus discussions and activities, student life programming and academic classes throughout the year.
While Friesen doesn’t always select plays around the Civic Engagement theme, she frequently consider how Bluffton’s theatre program fits into this important campus initiative.
“Several characters struggle with issues of truth-telling, truth-seeking and integrity in the play. The protagonist, John Proctor, knows that the accusations of witchcraft in the village are false, and he knows that he is a sinner himself,” said Friesen. “Should he reveal what he knows and expose his own failings? Does he deserve to die as some sort of martyr, flaws and all? The religious leaders charged with investigating the accusations are also embroiled in issues of truth-seeking. Who should they believe in cases of a supernatural crime – the accused witches, or their alleged victims? What constitutes evidence in such a case?”
Explore these timely issues with Bluffton during performances of “The Crucible” at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2-4, and 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 5, in Ramseyer Auditorium in College Hall. Reserved tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for senior citizens (65 and over) and non-Bluffton students. Tickets are available online at tickets.bluffton.edu or at the Marbeck Center information desk. For assistance with tickets, call the box office at 419-358-3239.