This past winter I had the immense pleasure to work on one of the most important plays ever written, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Although I was exhausted (seven months pregnant with twins!), this experience was one of the most fulfilling and synergistic moments of my career. The production was a collaboration between Lipscomb Theatre and Blackbird Theater Company, which is our resident semi-professional company. With a mix of students and Nashville pros in the cast, and a top-notch production team, I was enraptured with the entire process and the product. Why this play, and why now? Here’s what I wrote as my director’s note in the playbill:
One of Arthur Miller’s masterworks, The Crucible encapsulates a dark, disturbing historical event from America’s early settlement period while resonating universal themes that continue to reverberate throughout time. While Miller wrote the play to address 1950s McCarthyism, his work exploits elements of humanity that transcend single application. Of all of the ideas explored in The Crucible, including the perversion of justice, the power of collective hysteria, the ramifications of religious fundamentalism, and the unquenched need for societal scapegoats– all boil down to one driving element: fear.
Miller’s Puritans, as many of us do, operate entirely based on fear. While they specifically fear rebellion, God’s punishment, and the devil, people throughout time have mirrored their beliefs and actions, if for their own reasons. Fear, however, is one of our basest instincts, and this play captures the repercussions of how unbridled terror in a few people can bring down many.
What are we doing TODAY, even in small ways, that perpetuates fear?
This play serves more than to point fingers at religious figures and political systems from over 300 years ago; we must see ourselves in this story, and not just as the victims. On both macro- and micro- levels, we behave like the Puritans did that fateful spring. And the truth is, we all pay the price. As John Donne put it:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Thank you for joining us for this special production. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have in creating it. May we all hear fewer bells toll in our lifetimes.