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Shawnigan Players bring classic play about witch hunts to Duncan Showroom

Arthur Miller play ‘The Crucible’ an international classic

The play The Crucible, written by famous playwright Arthur Miller, will be performed by the Shawnigan Players at the Duncan Showroom beginning later this month.

The Crucible is a play about the witch hunts and trials in the Massachusetts’ Puritan community of Salem in the 17th Century, but the play’s director Alex Gallacher said it is also an allegory about the McCarthy era in the U.S. in the late 1940s through the 1950s.

The term “McCarthy era” refers to the controversial practices and policies of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy who, at the time, made false or unfounded accusations of subversion and treason against many American citizens who he accused of being communists.

Gallacher said the Salem witch hunts and McCarthyism were similar in that both caused public hysteria and people were asked to denounce others.

“In the early 1950s, Arthur Miller was called before McCarthy’s committee and asked to name names,” Gallacher said.

“He refused and was blacklisted to a degree. Miller had to work under a cloud of suspicion, writing plays after that for awhile, and The Crucible, which he wrote in 1952, was not the massive success at the time like his play The Death of a Salesman which he wrote several years before.”

Gallagher said The Crucible, which is about groups of people destroying the lives of others through fear and malice, did go on to become a classic play that is performed all around the world.

“It’s a universal play that also reflects the political climate that we are in right now,” he said.

Gallagher said the Shawnigan Players have been rehearsing The Crucible since September, but it was cast last year and had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A local farmer John Proctor is the central character in the play,” he said,

“His wife is unjustly accused of being in league with the devil and corrupting youth and he, himself, becomes accused of the same thing when he tries to defend her in court. The community turned on him and he was given the option of confessing and not being hanged, or not confess and die. Proctor faces a moral dilemma of lying to save himself, or not to confess and be hanged.”

Gallagher said two actors have been chosen to play John Proctor and will play the role on alternate nights at the Duncan Showroom.

One is Cobble Hill’s Jacob Bennison who has already acted in about eight plays even though he is just in his early 20s, and the other is Aaron Livingston, a local teacher who is undertaking his first major acting role.

“Both were so good in the auditions, we felt sad that we had to choose, so we didn’t and took both of them for the role,” Gallacher said.

“The other main role is the villainous character Abigail Williams who is played by Senya Pike. Senya attended acting school and played a major role in the Shawnigan Players’ recent Shakespearean play Cymbeline.”

Gallagher said the Duncan Showroom is a wonderful venue and the perfect stage for The Crucible.

“It’s a very intimate space with only 50 seats that works so well for The Crucible because it’s a claustrophobic play and that adds to the ambience,” he said.

The Crucible is scheduled to run from Nov. 22 to Dec. 4.

Tickets are $25 each at the door and $20 at Ten Old Books in the Duncan Garage.

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