Skyline thespians serve up witch’s brew with ‘The Crucible’
December 10, 2013
By Neil Pierson
People who are well-versed in “The Crucible” might not find a lot of surprises in Skyline High School’s adaptation, but the student actors and actresses have been working hard to put their own spin on Arthur Miller’s famous 1950’s production.
The play includes many real-life elements of the Salem witch trials that occurred in colonial New England during the late 1600s. And the cast at Skyline, under the direction of Hannah Fry, has used a fine-toothed comb to unearth historical nuggets of the story.
The junior and senior cast members have studied “The Crucible” in class, and at the start of fall rehearsals, the entire cast took part in a dramaturgy — research for a dramatic performance — said sophomore Madeline Miller, who has taken on the key role of Betty Parris.
“We kind of learned about the show itself and the time period … and the different relationships that have changed,” Miller said. “Now, a father and daughter would probably be pretty casual, but back then it was really strict, and if you did something wrong, you got whipped.”
Preparations for the show have been intense, said senior Hannah Green, who plays the Rev. John Hale. Auditions took place in early October, and daily three-hour rehearsals have been the norm ever since.
In the two weeks prior to their Dec. 11 debut, cast members have been in the theater until 10 p.m. each night, and they’ve given up their Saturdays to make sure the details are perfect.
Nathan Landolff, a junior who plays the Rev. Samuel Parris, said the production process has been unusual because many of the actors are in their first drama.
Landolff began acting while at Beaver Lake Middle School, and he’s done several musicals and comedies, but never a drama.
“I’ve been making people laugh, and now I’m trying to scare people or give them the shivers,” he said.
“The Crucible” revolves around an alleged witchcraft conspiracy. Betty Parris falls ill after dancing in the woods with several other girls, and some people, including the Rev. Parris, believe she’s been possessed.
Landolff said his role is a 180-degree reversal from his earlier comedic turns, and he’s enjoyed becoming a villain.
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“He is the character that everybody loves to hate,” Landolff said. “The audience should hopefully hate him, because he’s just a disgusting person. There are words that I could use to describe him that would not be printable.”
Green’s character — the Rev. Hale — enters later in the story as an out-of-town visitor who is trying to determine who the witches are. As things progress, Green said, Hale’s views shift and he realizes “witchcraft is kind of a crazy idea.”
A veteran actress with eight previous plays under her belt, Green is hoping to continue working in the theater in college. She’s also in the process of writing a children’s show with two other seniors, which they plan to release in May.
“It’s really my home away from home,” Green said of the theater, “and I really like it, because it’s a place where I can be just as crazy and loud as I choose to be in the moment.”
Madeline Miller has enjoyed seeing her friends morph from playing funny, silly characters to terrifying ones in “The Crucible.”
“It’s just tons of fun,” she said, “and you meet lots of eccentric, wonderful people, and you get to have a wonderful experience, broaden your horizons.”
Landolff said he believes the audience shouldn’t necessarily get locked into any preconceived notions of the play, because there will be noticeable differences.
“There’s still a lot of little things that, even if you are familiar with this and you’re a junior who’s studied it and analyzed every other sentence of it, you’re still going to be surprised by it,” he said.