‘The Crucible’ to open at David Douglas High School

What do the infamous ‘Salem Witch Trials’ – held more than three centuries ago – have to do modern day life? Quite a bit, actually – which is why actors bring an Arthur Miller classic to life in their Intimate Theater, on the first two weekends in March …

Working out their staging positions for the upcoming theatrical production of “The Crucible” are Gabby Luther (portraying Mary Warren), Nancy Vasquez (as Tituba), Katie Todd (playing Mercy Lewis), and Vanessa Harris (Betty) – “cavorting with spirits” in ecstatic dance – the event that leads to what became the “Salem Witch Trials”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The David Douglas High School (DDHS) Theater Department is putting the finishing touches on their winter production: Playwright Arthur Miller’s timeless dramatic work, The Crucible, that opens on March 3rd.

Given a sneak preview, as the cast rehearsed the play in school’s “black box” Intimate Theater a few days before it opens – we understand how audiences would become deeply immersed in the story, as events unfolded mere feet away in this close-up setting.

“There are only 62 seats available per showing,” commented DDHS theater arts instructor – and the show’s director – Michael Givler. “Being performed in an intimate setting – instead of being played on our main theater stage – heightens the drama.”

Michael Givler, theater instructor and director of The Crucible, coaches actors during a rehearsal.

About the story …
The play is based on historical events that led to the Salem Witch Trials between February 1692 and May 1693 in colonial Massachusetts, at which as many as 150 people were accused of witchcraft – and nineteen of them were executed.

“The plot of this tragic classic revolves around a group of girls who are having hallucinations and seizures,” Givler explained. “Spirits and witchcraft were thought to be the cause.”

Arthur Miller was moved to write The Crucible as the 1950s McCarthy era “Un-American Activities Committee” caught the attention of nation.

The Crucible débuted on stage 1953 – and went on to win the “Best Play” Tony Award. Then, in 1956, Miller himself was called before the committee, and was convicted of “contempt of Congress” for failing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.

“It’s a great story about how people try to cheat one another for their own gain,” Givler told us. “This is about people watching one another, and investigating one another and spreading rumors. It asks questions such as, ‘Who is a threat? Who will be called out next?’”

In addition to being presented in an intimate setting, Givler added, “We came up with an interesting way of bringing these concepts together – through use of music.”

Opens March 3
The Crucible begins promptly at 7:30 p.m. across two weekends, March 3, 4, 5, and then March 10, 11, 12.

Or, see the 2:30 p.m. matinee show on March 6.

Note: This is not a light musical comedy. Because of the powerful themes, and intense dramatic moments invoked by these skilled actors, this show is recommended for mature audiences – perhaps middle school and above.

In the foreground, Vanessa Harris, portraying Betty – daughter of Rev. Samuel Paris (played by Johnny Nguyen) – lies unconscious, as he prays for her “deliverance”. Kristin Miller (portraying Elizabeth), Carson Cook, (playing the John Proctor, who will be accused of witchcraft), and Terran Jorgensen (playing the treacherous Abigail), rehearse one of the many powerful scenes you’ll experience, close up, in the Intimate Theater.

Tickets are only $7 for students and seniors; $10 for adults.

Because only 62 seats are available per performance, shows will sell out quickly. For ticket reservations, see the DDHS website: CLICK HERE. Or, visit the theater box office Monday, Wednesday or Friday (on school days) from 3 until 5:30 p.m. Or, take your chances – and hope they aren’t sold out when you arrive seeking tickets an hour before show time.

The performances are held at the “black box” Intimate Theater, in the lower level of the Horner Center Performing Arts Center, 1400 SE 130th Avenue (between SE Stark & Division Streets). For more information, call (503) 261-8270.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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