Published on November 1st, 2012 | by Newt Rayburn0
Ole Miss Theatre Presents: “The Crucible” November 2, 3 & 4, 2012 in Oxford, Mississippi
by Katharine McNair
University of Mississippi Theatre’s “The Power of Politics” season continues with The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s 1952 classic American stage drama about the seventeenth century Salem Witch Trials and unwaivering moral standards in the face of death.
Performances are Friday through Saturday, November 2nd and 3rd at 7:30 pm, and Saturday through Sunday, November 3rd and 4th at 2 pm in the Ford Center for the Performing Arts Main Hall.
A classic in American theatre and literature, The Crucible, is a thrilling drama about the Salem witch trials in 1692 and all that transpired from the climate of fear that was manufactured.
Directed by theatre arts faculty member Rory Ledbetter, this look into a power structure’s ability to drum up hysteria to create persecution has Ledbetter excited about working with Miller’s piece.
“The play has a fascinating juxtaposition of tempos and rhythms, and the tension and suspense are palpable.” Ledbetter continued, “I’ve always loved The Crucible, and given that our season was centered around ‘The Power of Politics,’ I thought it was a great fit. Historically, the play is a response to McCarthyism, but its situations are timeless.”
He explains further, “In essence, the play is about truth, our social/ethical obligations, and the dangers of strict authority and sensationalism.”
Ledbetter is also looking forward to the opportunity of staging this in Ford Center as he said, “I’m ecstatic about putting up this production in the Ford Center. The play has a lot of depth and weight, and I think the luxuriousness and expanse of The Ford Center’s Theatre will gorgeously accent the entire experience.”
This production features twenty one Ole Miss Theatre students. Ledbetter said about this cast, “We’ve got an amazing cast, filled with a lot of talented students, and they are super excited about performing the play. In fact, I think their charisma and energy are going to make the dramatic tension and the emotional struggle of the characters viscerally vibrant!”
I was able to speak with two members of the cast, Cameron Yates and Angelica Spence.
Cameron, an Ole Miss freshman, said of his inspiration for working on this play, “comes chiefly from the culture of fear that I’ve grown up in as a young adult.” He says, “Arthur Miller offers a powerful lesson to my generation of Americans making sense of prejudices, xenophobic attitudes, and the meaning of a ‘just’ society.” He continued, “Even though it is a classic, I believe timeless values of justice, honor, and courage will draw the audience to the very heart of this work.”
Angelica Spence, an Ole Miss senior, said of the unique experience of her role in this play, “We have been exploring so much throughout the rehearsal process over just this first week, and have gone to places that I have never gone before in the portrayal of a character: emotionally, physically, mentally.” Spence continued, “It is rewarding how deep you can go with acting, specifically in a dramatic and emotionally tearing play such as The Crucible.”
Michael Barnett, the lighting designer for The Crucible, thinks this play is “perfect” for Ole Miss Theatre’s season of “The Power of Politics,” as he said, “Not only does this show resonate with themes from the time period of the show and the time in which it was written, it also speaks to many issues facing our country, and world, today.”
Barnett is thrilled to be designing in the Ford Center, “It’s wonderful to have so many lighting fixtures available as well as so many lighting positions at my disposal.” He added, “This provides me with the opportunity to explore many different, and interesting angles that will shift the audience’s perception of the events transpiring onstage.”
For Barnett, The Crucible has always been one of his favorite Arthur Miller plays. He said of the play, “The examination of the mob mentality within our culture is one that I find truly fascinating.”
He continued, “I appreciate that Miller has been able to fictionalize these historic events and make them particularly relevant to a modern audience. I am endeavoring, in my design, to communicate the fear and isolation that these people live with that have driven them to this point.”
For this production, Lindsey Quay Sikesis leading the costume design. Her inspiration for the show is “the idea of fire and brimstone.” She added, “I’ve tried to bring in the colors of fire to the very neutral palette of the Puritans.”
Sikes said of her design, “You were either for the church or against it, there was no going between. All the clergymen and the judges represent that standard in the black and white of their costumes.” Another aspect of this production is dressing a large cast. Sikes enjoys the challenge, “The rewards of dressing such a large cast is the opportunity to get to work with so many wonderful actors and that’s the main reason why I love being a costume designer.” She added, “It becomes a very intriguing experience. For instance, the actor has to learn different postures, different ways to walk, and how to control movement. In modern times, our movements aren’t controlled by clothing or moral society, but back in 1692, they most definitely were.”
Whether it’s the political message, the actor’s emotion, or the set and costume design you enjoy at an Ole Miss Theatre production, you will be taken on a unique journey with this year’s rendition of The Crucible.
A reception is to follow the Friday, November 2 performance. All are welcome to stay and meet the cast and crew. For more information for tickets, please contact the UM Box Office, (662) 915-7411.