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Witches, Beware! ‘Crucible’ Haunts the Dickinson Stage

'The Crucible' opens at Mathers Theatre on Oct. 27. Photo by A. Pierce Bounds '71.

'The Crucible' opens at Mathers Theatre on Oct. 27. Photo by A. Pierce Bounds '71.

Halloween-season production casts a spooky spell

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible gazes through a dark lens of American history to illuminate the wreckage wrought by intolerance and hysteria and the harm done to those who don't conform to social norms. This weekend, Miller's fictionalized retelling of the 1692 Salem witch trials gets a fresh treatment on the Dickinson stage.

The Department of Theatre & Dance's production of The Crucible opens Friday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m., in Mathers Theatre, and continues Saturday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5. The show is directed by Professor of Theatre Karen Kirkham and assistant-directed by Zaitian Guo ’24 (history).

The events in Salem began when three girls falsely accused fellow townspeople of practicing witchcraft. A flurry of accusations and arrests followed, stirring up an atmosphere of distrust, fear and oppression. By the close of that year, 19 men and women were convicted of witchcraft and executed.

It's riveting stuff—all the more so in the hands of a master playwright and a director who brings a new twist to the material. Writing in the mid-20th century, Miller drew parallels between the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism, a movement led by Senator Joe McCarthy to suppress Communism and leftist activity in America. More than a half-century later, Dickinson’s production focuses on the theme of empowerment as well as on issues of justice, reputation, hysteria and intolerance. Kirkham also brings in a Greek chorus to comment on Miller’s artistic choices.

View more photos on Dickinson's Facebook page.

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Published October 25, 2023