Featuring a cast and crew of 40 — plus original music created by a student — Westfield High presents Arthur Miller’s powerful drama, "The Crucible." Set in 1692 Salem, Mass., it’s the story of a husband and wife and what happens when the husband’s former lover falsely accuses Salem citizens of being witches.
"I chose this play because I love the writing and the message: Remember and learn from the past; don’t make the same mistakes," said Director Susie Pike. "I taught it when I was an English teacher, and I’ve always loved it. As a theater teacher, I think the characters are rich roles to play."
Senior Joey Biagini portrays John Proctor, a married farmer living on the outskirts of Salem. "He craves stability in his life and work, but he finds himself caught up in the town’s mass hysteria, largely because of Abigail Williams."
Proctor had an affair with her while she was a teen-age servant in his home and his wife was ill. She’s eventually thrown out of the house and, said Biagini, "She gets in trouble for dancing and other rituals she’s performed. So she shifts the focus toward others in the town that she doesn’t like; she calls them witches and starts a witch hunt."
Biagini calls the story "classic American literature that touches base with American culture. It shows what a person is willing to do when thrust into an extreme situation. The audience will be able to relate to John because he’s a likeable guy, above the insanity the rest of the town has become involved in."
Playing his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, is junior Madeleine Bloxam. "She’s a strong-willed, honest woman," said Bloxam. "She’s aware of her husband’s infidelity, but believes it’s important to complete her wifely duties and put it aside. Her relationship with John is strained because of this, but he knows what he did is wrong and he tries to make it up to her."
Thrilled with her role, Bloxam said, "I really wanted it because she’s so complex. She has to stay strong and controlled, while still pleasing her husband. There’s a lot of back story to this character so I have to know her intention in every line."
She said Westfield’s capturing the complexity of the overall story, while contrasting it with the simplicity of the set and costumes. "The words, the language and the story behind the drama are what’s important," said Bloxam. "The witch trials actually happened, and you wonder how people could have done this. But then it happened again with McCarthyism, which is what this play’s based on. Arthur Miller used this play to tell what he thought of the McCarthy trials."
Junior Maggie Mitchell portrays Abigail Williams. "She’s just 17, but knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go to any lengths to get it," said Mitchell. "She knows how she’s supposed to act in the village, but she’s driven by a blind attraction to John. And once she gets a little taste of power, she does anything to keep that control."
Mitchell says it’s fun playing a villain. But it’s also challenging because "Abigail acts differently around different people. She knows how to push their buttons and play off their emotions."
She said it’s a classic play, but the way Westfield’s performing it makes it "really relatable. Audience members will definitely form their own opinions of the characters and their actions and decide if what they did was morally correct."
Playing the Rev. John Hale, an expert on witchcraft and the devil, is senior Nick Burroughs. "He questions the people who’ve been accused of being witches," said Burroughs. "He’s really bright and focuses a lot on books and learning. He comes into Salem gung-ho about seeing if witchcraft is real there. Then throughout the show, he goes through a huge transformation and starts to doubt that so many people are possessed by the devil."
Burroughs loves his role because "it’s almost like playing two characters in one. I like showing his differences from beginning to end." He said the audience will enjoy seeing the various elements Westfield’s added to this famous play.
Senior Ben Nelms plays the Rev. Parris. "He’s nasty, manipulative, two-faced, underhanded and slimy," said Nelms. "He’s the local minister in Salem and he openly manipulates the truth to get what he wants."
Nelms said a villain is "more complicated, in-depth and three-dimensional than other characters. Everything he does is so different than what normal people do today. He takes morals and rules and bends and twists them to serve his purposes."
The audience will be impressed by how powerful and moving this play is, said Nelms. "It’s a period piece but, at the same time, the problems — adultery and false accusations — are very modern," he said. "Bending the truth, and people stepping on others on their way up, are things we experience every day. These characters are timeless."
Classmate Dieter Stach is the show’s triple threat, performing three functions. As sound designer, he decides which microphones go where and writes music and sound-effect cues for the soundboard operator. As music director, he determines what music goes where in the play. And as music composer, he wrote all the music used in the production.
It’s orchestral and symphonic and everything is original. "My computer plays it back and records it, and I put it on a CD," said Stach. "It’s a really cool program. I’m in the Music and Computer Technology class at the Fairfax Academy, and I’m using what I learned to do there."
Stage manager is senior Chaz Coffin. "I help keep Ms. Pike organized and the actors on book, communicate with the cast about rehearsals and costumes, and write down the blocking," he said. "At show time, I’ll be in the tech booth assisting the sound and lighting operators and will talk to the assistant stage managers [Julian and Brandon Sanchez] backstage to keep the scenes flowing smoothly." Coffin usually acts, so he’s enjoying being on the other side, seeing how the audition, casting and production processes work.
Professional costume designer, Marian Patey, helped with the costumes and, said Pike, "Our student set designer, Jordan Vollenweider, did an amazing job creating a unit set for the Parris house, Proctor house, jury room and jail."
"It’s a difficult play and takes real strength in acting," added Pike. "But my actors are totally dedicated and willing to work hard. I’m so fortunate to have students who are sophisticated enough as actors to be able to play these roles."