The dramatized Arthur Miller play of the Salem witch trials, The Crucible, will premiere as USF’s British International Theatre Production on Feb.15.
Helen Tennison, director of The Crucible, received funding from the British International Theatre Program (BRIT) to execute her theater artistry and knowledge.The BRIT program is an annual event where handpicked directors are selected to teach students.
The Crucible, first performed in 1953, is a slightly fictionalized version of the investigation into women in Salem, Massachusetts, who were being accused of witchcraft by a group of young girls.
The script has not been altered, but in Tennison’s contemporary version of the play, it is set in the year 2023 instead of 1692. Tennison said the dystopian parallel allows people to look at certain issues that are more relevant today.
“The Crucible has been done many times before, but no two productions can ever be the same,” Tennison said.
This is Tennison’s third time doing a production at USF. Tennison said that working with USF students has been a positive experience.
“Even if there was one person different, it would be a completely different show,” Tennison said.
Tennison said the play’s central meaning is how communities can lose their perspectives and become attached to certain ideas which can disfigure an individual's sense of beliefs. She also said this aspect of The Crucible speaks to how the world is in respect to current affairs.
“In America and in Britain politics, everything is quite polarized,” Tennison said. “The British left the European Union, which has split the country, and in the United States, people are one side or the other with (President Donald) Trump.”
Tennison said part of being an individual in this lifetime is coping when society is causing distress and this message was an important one to showcase.
“Whenever you do a play, you have to ask yourself, ‘why this play, why now?’” Tennison said. “It will make people think political and engage you emotionally.”
Sasha Beers, a junior majoring in performance theater, said Tennison was a significant factor in her decision to audition for the play.
“She’s probably one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with,” Beers said. “Helen (Tennison) is passionate and the best directors are the ones that love their work as much as you do or even more.”
Beers said one of the prominent themes of the play that is important to her is being able to question who you are as a person.
“When it comes to describing yourself, you don’t describe who you are inside, but how others perceive you,” Beers said. “A crucial moment in the play is being able to discover the true meaning of who you are.”
Beers said Tennison's recreation of the play is modern and simple for students to enjoy and relate to.
Thomas Brown, a junior majoring in theater performance, portrays John Proctor, one of the leading roles.
Brown said if a show is portrayed well, it can be relevant throughout history and is able to carry on into the future.
“A lot of theater is the lens you view it in, and with recent events, you’ll be able to have a completely different play than the one in 1952,” Brown said.
Brown encourages people who have never seen the play to give this version a chance, as he said he believes it will provide the audience with the opportunity to self reflect, aside from just enjoying the show.
“The best advice I can give is to be willing,” Brown said. “Be willing to evaluate your own self, your sense of truth and the ability to question authority.”
The Crucible will be performed Feb. 15-17 and Feb. 22-24 at 7:30 p.m, as well as Feb. 18, 24, and 25 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for the public.