Go back in time this weekend with the Binghamton University theater department in its first main stage production of the spring semester, “The Crucible.” Arthur Miller’s most-produced play, directed by Anne Brady, premieres at 8 p.m. on Friday, with performances at 8 p.m. on March 10, 16 and 17 and a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on March 18, in Watters Theater.
The play is a dramatization of the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in the province of Massachusetts Bay during 1692 and 1693. While the characters are not exact representations of real people, most of the historical roles are accurately represented and the judicial sentences pronounced on the characters are close to those given to their real-life counterparts.
In order to prepare for their roles, all of the actors did in-depth research on the trials, something that was largely stressed throughout the production of the play. Poster boards were made to help them understand what it was like to live in such a different time.
Kaylin Hawkins, a junior double-majoring in theater and English, plays Rebecca Nurse, a very pious 72-year-old woman. She, along with many of her cast mates, took a trip to Danvers, Mass. (once known as Salem Town) to get a better grasp of her character. They visited Nurse’s home, where Nurse is now buried.
“It made the whole play real for me knowing that I was walking where she walked and standing where she now lies,” Hawkins said. “It was a very surreal experience.”
Hawkins’ visit, as well as the countless articles and journals about life in 1692 that she read, helped her understand her character better.
“She is a Puritan, which differs from my religious values, and she is extremely devout,” Hawkins said. “I have had to see the whole show from her point of view rather than my own.”
Austin Tooley, a first-year graduate student studying theater and directing, had a similar experience preparing for his role as Deputy Governor Danforth, one of the judges responsible for unmasking the truth behind the claims of witchcraft and the Christian lifestyle during that time period.
“For my research I not only studied the events of the witch trials and read the testimony and court documents, I also researched the personal journals and publications by prominent judges, magistrates and officials in Massachusetts at the time,” Tooley said. “I was searching for a point of view about the world around that would support the actions I must take to tell the story.”
Alison Fasolino, a first-year graduate student studying theater, plays Ann Putnam, who is one of the characters who not only believes in witchcraft but condemns those around her as witches. Fasolino said she has learned a lot from working with director Anne Brady.
“Anne is a very powerful director who truly knows the story and the world that she is creating,” Fasolino said. “In working with her I have learned so much about the importance of knowing the world that you are playing in and living in that world fully.”
The play has been well-researched by the cast, which will make it more realistic for the audience. According to Fasolino, the message behind the play will speak to the crowd, as it is relevant to today.
“Our world is often taken by the hysteria around us and things get out of control very quickly,” Fasolino said. “The characters in this play use their emotions as their driving force and it enraptures the people around them. There are ‘witch hunts’ happening all around us today in which people are persecuted just as the people in ‘The Crucible’ are.”
Anne Brady also believes the audience will connect with the relevance of the play, despite it being set in the 17th century.
“This play will be important to the audience not only because of the historical events and the journey the amazing characters go through, but because it asks us, ‘Who tells the truth?’” Brady said. “’The Crucible’ proposes whether it is OK to question authority and allow our fears to dictate decisions.”
As the play draws closer to its opening night, Brady says she is confident in the cast’s performance of “The Crucible.”
“We have a very good show prepared, and I am very confident that they’ll [the actors] take all the work from rehearsal and share the story with the audience,” Brady said.
Tickets for “The Crucible” are available at the box office in the Anderson Center. Tickets cost $14 for general admission, $12 for faculty/staff/seniors and $8 for students with ID.