Drama brings The Crucible and Salem Witch Trials to LHS stage

Linden High School’s very own drama department is presenting an exhibition of “The Crucible,” a play written in 1953 by Pulitzer-winning American playwright Arthur Miller. The play opened last week, with performances again this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The play is set during the Salem of 1692-3 and was Miller’s way of responding to McCarthyism and the anti-communist trials being held at that time by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The LHS production of this drama has involved extensive rehearsing and set-making as well as taking much of the actors’ time to learn lines and get into the mindset of a person from the 17th century.

“Casting is a calculated risk,” explained LHS drama teacher and director Rob Chase.  “It is the first major role for all seven of the most prominent actors, and for four of them it’s their very first high school play.  Based on their auditions I knew that they were capable of reaching this level of performance, but they had to not only develop their characters but learn to manage their time and be disciplined enough to learn the heavy line load.  You never know with inexperienced actors if they’ll understand that challenge and handle the magnitude of what’s expected of them, but they came through.”

Being set in such a historical time came with its own challenges for actors.

Olivia Gideon said that the most difficult part was that “the language is much different from modern language.”

Some characters had personal challenges with their characters and the material.

“I have to yell at people a lot and I’m not like that in person,” shared Zach Warner.  “I also feel very guilty having to own a slave in the show; it’s difficult for my conscience to handle.”

For Chase, watching young actors grow through these experiences is what it’s all about.

“One of the most fun and rewarding parts of the process is when the actors have the basic character and movements down, then the lines memorized, and suddenly they start finding new things on their own: bits of physical action, new reactions, interactions with other characters, new ways to deliver a line more effectively or with more emotion,” shares Chase. “Those moments of exploration and discovery are what elevate their craft to a higher level, and there’s been a lot of that with this cast.  They have really grown to understand the depth of the tragedy these characters faced in real life, and are powerfully translating that for the audience to experience.”

Many of the actors and actresses have to deal with difficult characters for “The Crucible;” some play slaves, some judges who make the fatal decisions about how to deal with the “witches,” and others political or religious figures who undergo drastic character development in their views on “witchcraft” and how to handle it.

“I like the family environment that is built by involvement in the play,” Jacob Corralez noted.  “It’s fun to be there, work together, and be able to see what we have created.”

Of his character in the show, Corralez said, “I play Reverend John Hale.  My favorite scene is the court scene because I get to yell and be angry onstage.”

All the actors and actresses have worked extremely hard to pull together “The Crucible,” but others also worked very hard behind the scenes.

“Over six hundred man-hours went into set construction and lighting, and not just by the Stagecraft class,” said Chase. “Cast members worked after school, on weekends, and nine of them put in a very long day over Thanksgiving break to get the show ready to go for opening.”

Chase and his cast and crew would be delighted if more staff and students would come to see them.

“Opening night there was a good turnout and the audience was very responsive,” Gideon admitted, “and then after opening night the crowd dwindled a bit.”

Mark your calendars!  “The Crucible” will be performed three more nights this week, on December 7th, 8th, and 9th.  Shows start at 7 pm.  Come support our drama club and experience this riveting play firsthand.