The Crucible

written by

Arthur Miller

directed by

Elizabeth Siese

performed at

The Wimbledon Studio Theatre

May 1991

The Crucible Poster

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The Cast

Reverend Parris ~ Matthew Flexman
Betty Parris ~ Louise Polly
Tituba ~ Val Foskett
Abigail Williams ~ Jenny Siese
Susanna Walcott ~ Angela Lawrence
Ann Putnam ~ Eve Manghani
Thomas Putnam ~ Bruce Jordan
Mercy Lewis ~ Joanne Ezzy
Mary Warren ~ Natalie Harris
John Proctor ~ Hugo Chandor
Rebecca Nurse ~ Pat Bryant
Giles Corey ~ Raphael Gonley
Reverend John Hale ~ Stephen Rock
Elizabeth Proctor ~ Lynn Mason
Francis Nurse ~ James Grayston
Ezekiel Cheever ~ Chris de Pury
Marshall Herrick ~ Michael Kelson
Judge Hathorne ~ David Freeman
Deputy-Governor Danforth ~ Tony Strong
Sarah Good ~ Tania Heyes

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The Crew

Director ~ Elizabeth Siese
Production Co-ordinator ~ Carole Melaugh
Stage Manager ~ Alan Hale
ASMs ~ Cliff Mason, Richard Hussey
Prompt ~ Robert Moon
Set Design ~ David Freeman, Alan Hale
Wardrobe ~ Marjorie Beauchamp, Julie Patrick, Sue Watts
Props ~ Penny Stone
Makeup ~ Arthur Harman
Lighting ~ Claire Carroll
Box Office ~ Annette Piper
Front of House ~ Michel de Dadelsen and friends
Bar ~ Carl Grice
Webpage ~ Matthew Petty

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"Witches and Communists"

quotes from the programme

I had known about the Salem witchcraft phenomenon since my American history class at Michigan, but it had remained in mind as one of those inexplicable mystifications of the long-dead past when people commonly believed that the spirit could leave the body, palpably and visibly. My mother might believe it still, if only in one corner of her mind, and I suspected that there were a lot of other people who, like me. were secretly open to suggestion.

At first I rejected the idea of a play on the subject. My own rationality was too strong, I thought, to really allow me to capture this wildly irrational outbreak. A drama cannot merely describe an emotion, it has to become that emotion. But gradually, over weeds, a living connection between myself and Salem, and between Salem and Washington, was made in my mind - for whatever else they might be, I saw that the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in Washington were profoundly and even avowedly ritualistic. After all, in almost every case the Committee knew in advance what they wanted the witness to give them: the names of his comrades in the Party. The FBI had long since infiltrated the Party, and informers had long ago identified the participants in various meetings. The main point of the hearings, precisely as in seventeenth-century Salem, was that the accused make public confession, damn his confederates as well as his Devil master, and guarantee his sterling new allegiance by breaking disgusting old vows - whereupon he was let loose to rejoin the society of extremely decent people. In other words, the same spiritual nugget lay folded within both procedures - an act of contrition done not in solemn privacy but out in the public air.

In effect, it came down to a governmental decree of moral guilt that could easily be made to disappear by ritual speech: intoning names of fellow sinners and recanting former beliefs.

It was this immaterial element, the surreal spiritual transaction, that now fascinated me, for the rituals of guilt and confession followed all the forms of a religious inquisition, except, of course, that the offended parties were not God and his ministers but a congressional committee. We were moving into the realm of anthropology and dream, where political terms could not penetrate. Politics is too conscious a business to illuminate the dark cellar of the public mind, where secret fears, unspeakable and vile, rule over cobwebbed territories of betrayal and violent anger.

My decision to attempt a play on the Salem witchcraft trials was tentative, restrained by technical questions first of all, and then by a suspicion that I would not only be writing myself into the wilderness politically but personally as well. For even in the first weeks of thinking about the Salem story, the central image, the one that persistently recurred as an exuberant source of energy, was that of a guilt-ridden man, John Proctor, who, having slept with his teenage servant girl, watches with horror as she becomes the leader of the witch-hunting pack and points her accusing finger at the wife he has himself betrayed. The story's lines of force were still tangled, but instinct warned that as always with me, they would not leave me untouched once fully revealed.

In a sense I went naked to Salem, still unable to accept the most common experience of humanity, the shifts of interest that turned loving husbands and wives into stony enemies, loving parents into indifferent supervisors or even exploiters of their children, and so forth. As I already knew from my reading, that was the real story of ancient Salem Village, what they called then the breaking of charity with one another.

Reaction against the Salem Anglia would be, as I already sensed, the strongest objection to such a play. "There are Communists," it would be repeatedly said, "but there never were any witches.'' I did not wish to evade this point, there was no need to; my obligation was still solely to myself and to the material. But I did not want it to sidetrack me either, not before I clearly knew the theme. AlI I had so far was a mass of stories, evidence of an imploded community that distrust and paranoia had killed.

The witch-hunt was a way of saying ''You must gather to us in the church since we alone stand between you and the Devil's overwhelming the world." Beneath high moral dudgeon, then as now, lay our old friend power, and the lust for it. When several hundred thousand people had been executed in Europe for witchcraft, it was hardly wisdom to say that the cause was merely imaginary.

Almost every testimony I had read revealed the sexual theme, either open or barely concealed. The relief that came pothole who testified was orgasmic; they were actually encouraged in open court to talk about their sharing a bed with someone they weren't married to, a live human being now manacled before them courtesy of God's lieutenants.

Here was guilt, the guilt of illicit sexuality. Had there been no tinder of guilt to set aflame, had the cult and culture of repression not ruled so tightly, no outbreak would have been possible. John Proctor, then, in being driven to confess not to a metaphoric guilt but to actual sex with an identified teenage partner, might save the community in the only way possible - by raising to consciousness what had been suppressed and in holy disguise was out to murder them all.

The political question, therefore, of whether witches and Communists could be equated was no longer to the point. What was manifestly parallel was the guilt, two centuries apart, of holding illicit, suppressed feelings of alienation and hostility toward standard, daylight society as defined by its most orthodox proponents.

Without guilt the 1950s Red-hunt could never have generated such power. Once it was conceded that absolutely any idea remotely similarly a Marxist position was not only politically but morally illicit, the liberal, with his customary adaptations of Marxist theory and attitudes, was effectively paralysed. The former Communist was guilty because he had in fact believed the Soviets were developing the system of the future, without human exploitation and irrational waste. Even his naivete in seeing Russian not as an early empire but rather as a kind of spiritual condition was now a source of guilt and shame.

The longer I worked the more certain I felt that as improbable as it might seem, there were moments when an individual conscience was all that could keep a world from falling.

From 'Timebends',1987, ©Arthur Miller

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"The Big Lie"

quotes from the programme

"We have seen the technique of the 'Big Lie' elsewhere employed by the totalitarian dictators with devastating success, utilised here for the first time in our history... The standards that the witch-hunters are trying to impose on us are the standards of propaganda. of mob-thinking, and out of control...Within our own country our traditional freedoms are being paralysed by the fear fostered by our organised pressure groups which are hard at work to deepen the intimidation and make paralysis more rigidity"

Owen I Lattimore, Ordeal by Slander, 1950
(Lattimore was accused by McCarthy of being a Soviet Spy)

"I never want to live again to watch people turn into liars and cowards and others frightened, silent collaborators. And to hell with the fancy reasons they give for what they didn't"

Lillian Hellman, postscript to 'Scoundrel Time' 1979

"The Salem tragedy developed from a paradox. It is a paradox in whose grip we still live, and there is no prospect yet that we will discover its resolution. Simply, it was this: for good purposes, even high purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies. It was forged for a necessary purpose and accomplished that purpose. But all organisation is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space. Evidently the time came in New England when the repressions or order were heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organised. The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom."

from Arthur Miller's notes on the play, 1953

"The New-Englanders are a People of God settled in those which were once the Devil's Territories: and it may easily be supposed that the Devil was exceedingly disturbed, when he perceived such a People here accomplishing the Promise of old made unto our Blessed Jesus, that he should have the Utmost pads of the Earth for his Possession...The Devil, thus irritated, immediately try'd all sorts of Methods to overturn this poor plantation...I believe that never were more Satanical devices used for the Unsettling of any People under the Sun, than what have been Employ'd for the Extirpation of the Vine which God has here Planted... But all those Attempts of Hell have hitherto been Abortive...Wherefore the Devil is now making one Attempt more upon Attempt so critical that if we get well through, we shall soon Enjoy Halcyon Days with all the Vultures of Hell Trodden under our feet...An army of Devils is horribly broke in upon the place which is the Centre, and after a sort, the First-born of our English settlements; and the Houses of the Good People there are filled with the doleful Shrieks of their Children and Servants, Tormented by Invisible Hands, with Tortures altogether preternatural... And yet it will be a thing little short of a Miracle, if in so spread a business as this, the Devil should not get in some of his Judges, to confound the Discovery of all the rest. I hope in God's time it will be found that among those that are thus cried out upon there are Persons yet clear from the great Transgression...'Tis our Worldliness, our Formality, our Sensuality, and our Iniquity, that has helped this letting of the Devils int."

Cotton Mather, Bostonian minister, writing during the witch-trials, 1692

"The persecution of the persons for witchcraft in Salem was in 1692. It lasted from the latter part of February when the first singular actions of the supposed bewitched young girls were noticed, until September 22 when the last executions took place. The storm was then over, though the air was not clear of threatened danger until May of 1693, when all prisoners were set free. Nineteen supposed witches were hung, fourteen of them being women, and Giles Corey who would not answer to the court and plead either 'guilty' or 'not guilty' was pressed to death for his contumacy."

Caroline E. Upham, Salem Witchcraft in Outline, 1891

"We walked in clouds and could not see our way. And we have most cause to be humbled for error...which cannot be retrieved."

Rev. John Hale, witness for prosecution, confession, 1693

"The greatness of the lie is always a certain factor in being believed; at the bottom of their hearts, the great masses of a people are more likely to be misled than to be consciously and deliberately bad, and in the primitive simplicity of their minds, they are more easily victimised by a large than by a small lie...some part of even the boldest lie is sure to stick"

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1924

"While I cannot take the time to name all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department"

Senator Joseph McCarthy, speaking in West Virginia, 1950

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