“It is rare for people to be asked the question which puts them squarely in front of themselves” – John Proctor, “The Crucible.”
Last week my husband and I went to the Lincoln Academy performance of “The Crucible.” It was without a doubt one of the best high school performances I’ve seen. Two Whitefield area youth were involved in the play – Cadence Balbo Towle played Betty Parris and Calvin Percy was part of set construction. Congratulations to Cadence and Calvin for a very successful production!
Driving home and discussing the play something kept surfacing in our conversation. While the acting, due in large part to incredible talent and directing, was phenomenal it was the choice of this play that we were intrigued by. “The Crucible” is not an easy subject or play by any stretch of the imagination, so why this choice? According to a short write up in the play’s program, the students wanted something more challenging and more character driven than the traditional autumn musical. Well, this certainly was that and more.
As a teacher for over 30 years it was always clear when society was in turmoil because the children would tell us. Over and over again I hear from teachers and parents that the children are struggling. Do we wonder why? I don’t.
I don’t think it’s news to anyone reading this that the world is in chaos. And to me the choice of this play makes perfect sense. A play that dramatizes a chaotic period in our history and whose theme also addresses another chaotic time, that of the McCarthy era of the ‘50s. Immersion in arts such as drama is how kids work out issues they are experiencing. And we all are experiencing global turmoil right now.
The initial performance of this play had to be delayed because of the mass shooting in Lewiston. A play addressing societal chaos was delayed by societal chaos. Mass shootings are something that is on the minds of most children, if not all. How can it not be? But if we adults dig a little deeper, we will hear from the children that what really is on their minds is the lack of action to keep them safe from mass shootings. So this choice of a play that centers on an era in turmoil may be telling us something about the conflicts the kids are trying to make sense of. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but my gut tells me I’m not.
Reaching out to Griff Braley, the director of this incredible performance – and it really was an incredible performance – he said, “These great plays remain popular and relevant because they speak to the types of situations that humans encounter over and over.”
That captures both a theme of this play and the choice of the students. So as we experience a repeat of another catastrophic situation we clearly are “squarely in front of ourselves.” Are we asking ourselves the deep questions needed right and are we listening to the answers? The kids hope we are.
Thank you Griff, the amazing student actors and behind the set crew, and the families and communities that supported this incredible effort. It was brilliant. Bravo!