When I am not writing mysteries or plays, or trying to be super-mom, I am a high school drama teacher.
This past fall, I directed Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
I need to choose plays that are going be a good fit for my student actors, but I also strongly believe that theater must be relevant.
I wrote a director’s statement in I which discussed some of my reasons for selecting the play. Here it is:
I often ask my theater students, “Is this play relevant today?”
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was first produced in 1953. Its subject matter deals with the Salem Witch Trials, but it is an allegory for the McCarthy Era Communist Witch Hunts.
And yet, it remains one of the most performed plays in high schools across the country.
This summer, when I was selecting a play to produce, like many people, I was being bombarded with news about the upcoming election. Alarming headlines—from both ends of the political spectrum—would pop up in my newsfeed. It was hard to avoid the contention, the arguments, and the animosity.
Two words kept popping out to me: fear and lies.
The Crucible deals with both.
It shows us, quite clearly, what can happen if we blindly trust sources of information without examining them more closely. It shows us what can happen in a society divided by unfounded accusations. It shows us what can happen if we let our fears overpower our reason.
It shows us that decent human beings—and yes, I do believe the people of Salem started out that way—can resort to horrific acts if they are misled.
The play continues to be relevant, now more than ever.
There was another reason I felt The Crucible was pertinent to our times.
At one point in the play, John Proctor, upon being accused of witchcraft states, “I am no Goody Good , who sleeps in ditches, nor Osburn, drunk and half-witted.”
The implication is, of course, that it was okay to accuse those women of witchcraft, but not John Proctor. After all, Proctor was a landholder, a churchgoer, a decent man (well, except for sleeping with a teenager thing.) He was someone in the eyes of his society.
Goody Good and Goody Osburn were expendable, but not John Proctor.
Here’s the thing I wanted to convey with my direction of The Crucible: no one is expendable.
When we abandon the Goody Goods and Goody Osburns of the world, we abandon ourselves. Until we recognize this, we are all in danger of hanging.