This article was originally published in ZU News.
Azusa Pacific’s rendition of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible opens Feb. 15 and will run through Feb. 25 in the Warehouse Theater. This classic play focuses on a town transformed by accusations of witchcraft in the 17th century.
Even though the play is over 60 years old and is set over three centuries ago, director Oanh Nguyen thinks the message is just as appropriate as ever.
“I believe even Miller would be surprised how The Crucible has only become more timely. Whether you follow the themes of fear, hysteria and scapegoating or connect to the themes of overcoming personal demons and humiliations, there is something here for everyone,” Nguyen said. “Our goal as a company has been to be as truthful to these characters as possible. Present them as human beings and leave the judgement to the audience.”
One of the leading characters in The Crucible, Abigail Williams, is played by senior acting major Dawn Williams.
“I was nervous that it was going to be a lot more tolling on me than it has been. I’ve been in heavier shows before and I’ve played evil characters and I’ve been exhausted by it, because I feel like I’m a nice person,” Williams said. “But this show is all in the text. Everything that you’re supposed to feel is really easy to feel because of the way the town and characters are set up. It’s all been easy because it’s authentic.”
This is Williams’ seventh and final play at APU.
“I wasn’t sure that I would get cast this semester. I thought last semester might be my last show as Lucinda in Into the Woods. The last line that I get to say in this show is ‘Praise God.’ That’s a great line to end on,” Williams said. “Although people will hate my character, I’m hoping that they will also love her for the struggle and the journey she goes through.”
Like Nguyen, Williams said that she feels the message of The Crucible is still relevant.
“The story lends itself to some profound issues, especially in a society that’s dealing with issues in social media. It touches on the risks of deception. We want to be a truthful culture, but so much of our news and media is lies. The world today is seeking truth and looking for places to find it,” Williams said. “This play is the downfall of humanity in their seek for truth. Abigail knows she doesn’t need to do much to turn the town upside down because she knows the town wants the truth and turns the lies into truth.”
One of the other leading actors in the show is sophomore acting major Sam Bixby. Bixby said he was excited to play a dynamic character.
“When I first got cast, I was very excited because I got cast as Reverend John Hale. He’s a minister in a town called Beverly. He comes in as this kick-butt kind of guy in all matters of demonic arts. He’s very religious,” Bixby said. “A lot of literary journals say that Hale experiences the most change over the course of the show, and I agree. Over the course of the four acts, he gets pummeled into the ground.”
Bixby said this play was more work than when he was in Into the Woods because the rehearsal time was limited.
“We started our first rehearsal on Jan. 6, so we’ve really had a short rehearsal time, especially for Arthur Miller who is arguably one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century and this is one of his meatiest plays. So to do that in a month and a half was a challenge to say the least,” Bixby said. “One of the most useful parts of rehearsal is living in a character. You start to think like the character and your characteristics become that of the character during rehearsal.”
Nguyen said that the limited rehearsal time has created challenges but the crew has adapted.
“Due to the limited rehearsal time and the length of the play, we asked the cast to learn their lines before rehearsals began,” Nguyen said. “That is a difficult task but the cast was more than up to [it].”
Nguyen said he has enjoyed working with the students on The Crucible.
“I tend to work on musicals or new plays, so it’s been fun to work on an American Classic,” Nguyen said. “It’s been a joy to work on Miller’s words and rummage around in this detailed, complicated and emotional world that he has created.”
The show runs Feb. 15-25, with Thursday through Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday performances at 2 p.m. in the Warehouse Theater on West Campus.