“Tell it big, tell it bold, tell it desperate.”
That’s how director Beth Wells instructed her young actors at as they prepared for a dress rehearsal/parent performance Monday night of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Wells hopes the message carries over to the school’s fall play, and continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the school’s auditorium.
Miller’s Tony-Award winning, 1952 classic might be the perfect chance for a “bold and desperate” performance.
The work, considered a classic, is based on the Salem witch trials of 1692 and 1693, but is widely considered an allegory of McCarthyism of the late 1950s, when the U.S. government dramatically blacklisted accused Communists, including many of Miller’s friends and associates.
The apparently unlearned lessons of that period drew Wells to Miller’s play.
“It is 2011 and it seems that we are still creating ‘witch hunts’ each and every day,” she said. “Students are bullied to the edge of suicide, large groups are pinpointed for random acts of violence, and entire races are wiped out by genocide.”
The cliché suggests that "we learn from our mistakes," Wells said, “but as George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience.’ ’’
Although McCarthyism swept the country long before junior Joe Cavaiani’s time, he points to genocide in Uganda and the persecution of homosexuals as modern day examples of the problem.
Cavaiani plays a central character in the play, John Proctor, whose affair with Abigail Williams triggers a series of events that ends with accusations of witchcraft, trials of innocent townspeople, imprisonment and execution.
Cavaiani, a veteran performer in the school’s theater department and a member of the school’s award-winning show choir, Expressions, said the role has taught him a valuable lesson.
“In the end, no matter what you are accused of, you have to stick to the truth, and telling the truth,” he said. “It’s always the best thing to do, even in a sticky situation.”
Senior Christina Melgar plays Abigail, whom Melgar describes as “very manipulative” and willing to “do everything she can to be with (Proctor) him.”
Williams has a definite mean streak, something Melgar finds a challenge to replicate on stage.
“I have to tap into my opposite side of myself and kind of get into it,” she said. “What really helps me is that I’m really focused on this role. I love acting and I really love this role."
“There are certain scenes in the show that I can relate to right now," she said. "So they are easier to play.”
One of her favorite movies, Mean Girls, has helped, too.
“I love the movie Mean Girls and I love the character Cady Heron because she’s very manipulative and does everything she can do to be on top and Abigail is the same, although her motivations are different," she said.
Cavaiani said the role of Proctor had its challenging moments.
“Yelling all the time,” he said with a smile. “He yells all the time. Even though he’s a very good man, he’s a very angry man.”
Both young actors attempt to reach new emotions on stage, something that’s needed for a “big, bold and desperate” performance.