Abigail Williams (Stephanie Evans) may cry witchcraft and tell John Proctor (Everett Davis), “The world is full of hypocrites,” but audience members will be the judges of who's what in the Theatre at Avon High production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible on Feb. 3 and 4.
“I just get to work with impressive material here because this story is an epic tale of the tragic hero Proctor,” said senior Erik Boswell (Deputy-Governor Danforth). “He’s going down to state what he thinks is right, but it doesn’t really change people. He’s set the example that should be followed.”
Patrick Barry, Avon’s new theater director, chose a “thrust stage” seating format that has the audience on stage surrounding the actors, who are performing in the middle. The intimate setting invites audience members to become witnesses, he said, to the story of the Salem Witch Trials, set in 1692.
“It’s very common in off-Broadway and regional theaters,” said Barry.
It also enables the actors to move more naturally, Barry said, instead of being locked to facing the front of the stage. Facial expressions are more visible with the close set-up.
Evans said that it was different having the audience “right up in your face” and that it created different vantage points. While Davis found it helped him focus more, Boswell said he always envisions a wall between him and audience members so they don’t influence his performance.
There are no microphones to amplify the actors’ voices because it wouldn’t fit the Puritan era, Barry said, adding to the raw emotion as the dialogue was brought down to the audience’s level.
One of the courtroom scenes in Act Two was read off-stage, as written in the script, Barry said, to subtly reinforce that the characters are constantly on trial in their lives and in front of the audience. All of the evidence is right there for the audience to see and hear. The witch executions are left purely to imagination.
The Crucible is part of Barry’s four-year theater plan to expose students to different styles, including Into the Woods for this year’s spring musical.
“I knew it was going to be a lot different than the ones that we had done before,” Isabela De Jesus (Elizabeth Proctor) said, as this was the first drama for most of the cast members. “It’s a more serious topic. It’s more dramatic.”
Evans and Rachel Oremland (Mary Warren) have the challenge of playing characters they believe are liars.
“She is devious and kind of malicious like that. It was funny to see what she did with all of the situations,” Evans said of her character, who has a lot of power in identifying so-called witches. “It’s so different from myself. It’s the opposite of who I am."
Mary Warren’s allegiance waivers between her peers and the accused, as she ultimately seeks safety by caving to peer pressure, Oremland said of her character.
“She’s innocent. I played a lot of innocent characters, so she’s kind of the same type of thing, but I like how at the end she has a twist,” Oremland said. “It’s cool because you get to play all the parts because you’re on this side and now you’re on that side. You get to be a crazy, accusing girl, but you also get to be the side where you knock sense into people. It was fun to play both.”
Bosworth didn’t like his character, Danforth, when he read the play last year, but he's grown to understood him more in his role.
“I have to purify everything within the provinces and within the colonies of the U.S. at the time,” Boswell said.
Avon resident David G. Matthes came to watch the dress rehearsal.
“The students performed nicely, I thought,” Matthes said. “I think it will captivate audiences. The close proximity will serve audiences best.”
Showtime is 7 p.m. for both Friday and Saturday at the Avon High School auditorium. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens and are available at the door on a first come, first serve basis at 6 p.m., though seating is limited. Overflow seating may be available in the first row of the auditorium. More information is available at www.theatreatavonhigh.weebly.com.
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