In a time of political turmoil, Playmakers Repertory Company is breathing new life into a classic about witch hunts.
Opening Wednesday, Playmakers revisits Arthur Miller’s classic “The Crucible,” the play that opened Playmakers’ first season back in 1976. It’s set in the 17th century, during the infamous Salem witch trials – but Miller wrote it in the 1950s, amidst the “witch hunts” of Joseph McCarthy, so the play is meant to resonate in any time when people are unfairly targeted, ostracized, or persecuted.
Visiting artist Ariel Shafir stars as John Proctor; he says the play examines how we have to adhere to our principles even when that seems impossible – and that makes it more relevant now than ever.
“We all are faced with the gap,” he says, “between who we think we are, what we think we believe, and what we actually have to do to protect those ethics and principles.”
Fellow visiting artist Sarita Ocon plays John’s wife Elizabeth; she says her role is a reflection on the difficult choices that women face regarding their own principles, an especially timely topic this year.
“I still want to show a sense of integrity and courage in some of (Elizabeth’s) text,” Ocon says, “where she’s coming forward and speaking up about a situation that has created some dire circumstances.”
Shafir, Ocon, and director Desdemona Chiang spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL, and Shafir and Ocon read a scene from “The Crucible.”
“The Crucible” is an important piece of PlayMakers’ history, but director Desdemona Chiang is also leading the company into uncharted territory. She’s staging the show in the round, something she believes PlayMakers has never done before – to give audience members a chance to view not only the actors, but also each other.
“It’s valuable for audiences to see each other, to see the play through our fellow audience members,” she says. “There really is no way you can get away from the fact that (“The Crucible”) is about us, right now, today, in this place and time.”
The Crucible opens Wednesday, October 19, and runs through Sunday, November 6. For ticket information, visit PlayMakersRep.org.
Will Arrington contributed to this report.