Powerful performances make for riveting live theater in ‘THE CRUCIBLE’ at DDHS

Patrons are amazed at how such a “big” story can be told in David Douglas High School Performing Arts Intimate Theater. Take a look, and find out why the performances – this weekend and next – are selling out quickly …

Before a performance of The Crucible, David Douglas High School junior Johnny Nguyen – he portrays Rev. Samuel Parris – finishes applying his stage makeup.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Arthur Miller’s award-winning play “The Crucible” does convey a powerfully poignant story, when performed conventionally in a large theater, where the audience is clearly separated from the actors.

But, having these same scenes – in which rumors turn into false accusations, fed by greed and lust, ending in deaths by hanging – played out up close, in the David Douglas High School (DDHS) Horner Performing Arts Center “Intimate Theater”, by skilled student actors – further heightens the dramatic impact of this play.

Hidden away from the audience, David Douglas High stagecraft students – Cameron Lenocker, Nicholas Hooper, Daniel Rusnac, and Kevin Fleming – run through lighting and sound cues, as they prepare for a presentation of The Crucible.

“Although Arthur Miller’s tragic classic of the American Theatre is based on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, it remains relevant today,” assured the director of the production, Michael Givler, DDHS Drama Department instructor.

“It is a story of how lies, greed, and corruption by some individuals can lead to innocent people being prosecuted, and even killed,” Givler added.

Rev. Samuel Parris’ slave from Barbados, Tituba (Nancy Vasquez), leads girls from her town in occultist activities in a nearby forest.

Rebecca Nurse (played by Dannah Hooper), comforts Betty Parris (Vanessa Harris), who feigns illness. Anne Putnam (Jessica Juday) and husband Thomas Putnam (Alex Mackaben), greedy landowners, look on from left.  At the right, farmer John Proctor (Carson Cook) and his former servant Abigail Williams (Terran Jorgensen) consider the meaning of the sickness.

About the story
The plot revolves around a group of girls who seen, by the poorly-respected minister of the town’s church, dancing and participating in satanic rituals. Instead of owning up to their actions, they fake having hallucinations and seizures.

When the daughter of the reverend spots her father watching the questionable activities, she faints and appears to go into a cationic state – an illness her father attributes to spells and witchcraft, not youthful deceit.

One of the girls spotted in the forest, the cunning and deceitful Abigail Williams (Terran Jorgensen), tries to rekindle her illicit relationship with John Proctor, when others leave the room for a moment.

Reverend John Hale (London Bauman-Loughran) entreats Rev. Parris’ slave girl, Tituba (Nancy Vasquez), to admit to conducting rituals in the forest.

A well-meaning reverend, said to be an expert in occultist phenomena, is summoned to help the “stricken” girl; but in his eagerness to put his acquired book-learning into practice, he inadvertently kicks off what will turn into the Salem Witch Trials.

Another girl caught in the forest cunningly accuses the wife of her former lover with witchcraft – and thus eliminates her romantic competition. And, a landowner jumps on the bandwagon, seeing an opportunity to increase his holdings – at the expense of farming families now accused of witchcraft.

Betty Parris “awakens” and cries out – to the surprise of her father, the town’s pompous Reverend Samuel Parris (Johnny Nguyen).

Ezekial Cheever (Karsten Montgomery) shows John Proctor the needle-containing “poppet” that has become the basis for Elizabeth Proctor’s arrest warrant.

The Deputy Governor in charge of the trials, a pretentious and selfish judge to whom public opinion and acute adherence to the law are most important, seems to know the accusations are bogus.

  • Who is guilty, and who is not?
  • Will justice be served?

Find out, when you attend a performance of The Crucible.

In the forest, John Proctor begs Abigail Williams to tell the truth in court. By her response, she obviously has other plans in mind.

About the playwright
Miller wrote the play in the early 1950s as his response to Rep. McCarthy’s hunt for communists in government and entertainment. Eventually, Miller was “blacklisted” by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956, and convicted of “contempt of Congress” for not naming others at meetings he attended.

According to a June 22, 1956, report in the New York Times, Miller specifically did not deny “that he had joined in sponsoring many Communist-backed causes”.

As Rev. Parris looks on, Deputy Governor Danforth (Corey T-Cedarleaf) reads a deposition presented to him by John Proctor. Will it help him clear his good name, and that of his wife?

Now playing through March 12
You’ll see outstanding performances given by seasoned student actors in the lead roles – you’ve seen them in many shows at David Douglas High – and by the supporting players.

After a successful opening night on March 3, the production continues over the next two weekends.

Arrive promptly; everyone needs to be seated before The Crucible begins at 7:30 p.m. on March 4 and 5, and then again on March 10, 11, 12.

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

Note: This is an intense dramatic presentation. 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.

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). It is handicapped-accessible. For more information, call (503) 261-8270.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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