Brendan shares his view on the play and the characters. Don’t forget, auditions will be held on October 3rd, 5th, 10th and 12th @ 8 pm upstairs in the Kildrought.
I am honoured to have been asked to direct The Crucible by Arthur Millar as our Spring production.
This a highly charged and challenging play set in the American town of Salem circa 1692. The inhabitants of Salem, fundamentalist puritancal Christians, believe unequivocally in the phenomonen of witchcraft and in the malign interference of witches in human society. Caught dancing (an activity strictly prohibted by the community) in the woods at night, in very suspect circumstances, a group of young girls, under the influence of the most dominant and manipulative of their number, seek to avoid punishment by claiming to have been possessed by witches. Local political tensions lead some of Salem’s citizens to play up these accusations and a full investigation conducted by an outside ‘expert’ ensues. In court a hysteria seizes the girls as they discover their power in naming innocent people as accomplices of the Devil……..
This is not in fact a play about witchcraft. From very early on it is clear that the accusations are unfounded. What it is, is an exploration of the way in which hysteria can take a grip on rigid, rule bound societies to the point where persecution ensues and even the very denial of a malign influence itself becomes cause for suspicion and accusation. Miller famously compared the Salem witch-hunt to the persecution of those suspected of left leaning sympathies in 1950s America. But the play does not depend on this parallel for its power. As a stand alone story about persecution, hysteria and witchcraft in 17th century America it is a gripping and compelling piece.
I do hope all members will consider auditioning for the play. There are up to 20 characters with scope for actors of all ages. I have listed these below in order of appearance with some little information on each
Betty Parris: Late teens (to early 20s). Betty is the daughter of the Rev. Samuel Parris. She has been severely traumatised either by the activity the girls were engaged in in the woods or by the fact that she has been caught doing it by her father. As the play opens she is in a trance like state refusing to communicate or acknowledge others.
Reverend Samuel Parris: Middle forties. He is a relatively new minister in Salem and very unpopular in some quarters. He believes many of his parishoners are conspiring against him. He is a rigid, autocratic man with no interest in children and no talen for them. He is terrified that the accusation of witchcraft will be used to undermine his authority.
Abigail Williams: Late teens (to early 20s). One of the great female villians. Miller describes her as, a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan with an endless capacity for dissembling. She is Parris’ neice. Her parents were slaughtered by indians which might account for her peculiar coldness and indifference to the suffering of others. She dominates the other girls bending them ruthlessly to her will. She is infatuated with John Proctor with whom she has had a brief daliance.
Tituba: Not really age specific. She is a slave girl whom Parris has brought with him to Salem from Barbados. She is believed by the others to be capable of conjuring up witches and there is some suggestion that this is what she was doing the night the girls were dancing in the wood.
Susana Walcott: Late teens (to early 20s). One of the girls. A nervous, hurried girl
Goodwife Ann Putnam: 40s A twisted soul of forty-five, a death-ridden woman haunted by dreams. The term Goodwife is often shortened to Goody throughout the play. Goody Putnam has had 8 children, 7 of whom have died on the nights of their births. She is haunted by this and believes some evil force has caused it and it seems that on the night of the dancing in the wood she had instructed her daugther to command Tituba to conjure up the spirits of her dead children so they might name their murderers.
Thomas Putnam: Near fifty. A well-to-do, hard-handed landowner. In many ways a deeply embittered man. His brother in law was turned down for the position of minister of Salem. He took the rejection as a personal slight. Pursues his debtors relentlessly and has recently challenged his father’s will on the grounds that his brother-in-law had been left a disproportionate amount. Feels himself the intellectual superior of most people around him.
Mercy Lewis: Late teens (to early 20s). One of the girls. Servant to the Putnams. Miller describes her as a fat, sly merciless girl of 18. I have no interest in her physical appearance and will not be casting her on the basis of weight etc. But she should be Sly and Merciless. She is a lesser form of Abigail. She too bullies the other girls and if she had the nerve to oppose Abigail she might well try to….. but of course, she doesn’t.
Mary Warren: Late teens (to early 20s). One of the girls. Servant to the Proctors. A subservient, naive, lonely girl. Mary is the conscience of the group. She tries to get the others to admit to what they were doing in the wood and to admit that the witchcraft story was just a concoction. Under the influence of John Proctor she tries to say this to the court. Ultimately however Abigail proves too strong for her.
John Proctor: 30s He is the central character of the play. A farmer. Independent minded – not linked to any faction in the town. Powerful of body, even-tempered. Doesn’t suffer fools. He has lusted after Abigail and they have been lovers. He regrets this but even as he meets her early in the play it is clear that he is still tempted by her. Desperately trying to be reconciled with and forgiven by his wife for his sin. ‘Called on to denounce his own wife, his friends and neighbours and finally himself, he goes through an ordeal by conscience, eventually accepting his own death rather than make a false confession.’
Goodwife Rebecca Nurse: 70s White haired, leaning upon a walking stick. Rebecca is held in high regard by all as a holy woman and someone who, in Miller’s own words exudes gentleness. She is the voice of sanity in this mad world, a woman who sees past the ‘law’ or the ‘rule’ to the person underneath. When she herself is finally accused of witchcraft it is a sign that the Salem community has finally been tipped into madness.
Giles Corey: 80s He is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive and still powerful. Fiercely independent. Could care less about public opinion. Not especially religious by Salem standards. Acquisitive and always ready to go to law. A crank and a nuisance in many ways but nonetheless a deeply innocent and brave man as is shown by his manner of dealing with his own accusation and that of others.
Reverend John Hale: 40 A ‘tight skinned, eager eyed intellectual. Proud of his ability to dicern witchcraft on a ‘scientific’ basis and not on mere peasant superstition. He has studied the workings of Satan at university and believes he is equipped with the tools to root him out whereever he settles. A mild mannered, decent man in other respects, who has no axe to grind and who finds himself being overwhelmed by the peculiar mixture of hysteria and malevolence which Salem exhibits. By the end of the play Hale has become convinced that there is no witchcraft in Salem but, having set the ball rolling he now finds himself powerless to stop it.
Goodwife Elizabeth Proctor: 30s? A good person. Clearly still in love with John Proctor though deeply wounded by his affair with Abigail, whom she sends from the house as a result. Although she loves him it appears she finds it hard to forgive him – though she observes dutifully all matrimonial obligations. When she protests to John that she does not judge him he replies Oh Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer! Nevertheless she is loyal to him to the end even if she actually damages his prospects of survival by so being.
Francis Nurse: 80s Well to do farmer Husband of Rebecca Nurse. Generally respected though he did have a long standing land war with Thomas Putnam. Nonetheless he is trusted by those in Salem who oppose the witchhunt to represent their case to the court.
Ezekiel Cheever: Indeterminate age – Cheever is appointed by the court to arrest those accused of witchcraft. He is purely obedient to what he is told to do and doesn’t seem to consider whether he’s part of a false and unjust process. Though he strikes me as being somewhat spineless?
Marshall Herrick: Indeterminate age. Again he is someone who is obliged to carry out the sentence of the court. He appears to have more conscience than Cheever but ultimately he succumbs meekly to the persecution.
Deputies: Literally there to bring prisoners on and off
Judge Hawthorne: 50s 60s Presides over the trials with Danforth. Appears to be a little in awe of Danforth.
Deputy Governor Danforth: 70s A formidable character. Very aware of the his own status. Presides over witch trials. Believes himself to be both fair minded and guided by God. So he becomes angry at the suggestion that anybody could fear the court. In Danforth’s mind only the guiltly need fear. Uncompromising and rigidly rule bound like the society from which he sprung.
These people speak in an archaic English. It is not an American accent as this had not yet evolved as we know it today. I do not see the accent as being especially pronounced so long as the form of English which Miller has written is respected.
Where possible I will try to stick to the ages for characters recommended in the script but I believe nonetheless that there is a deal of dicretion here.
Please consider reading for the play. I believe the script can be read online.