A Broadway show –wild success, abject failure, or anything in between– is something to celebrate. It’s an outpouring of the human drive to create, to perform, to connect with a live audience, so that they sojourn for a time in a land of wonders, horrors or delights. It is a sharing of words, images, music, movement, and ideas, in one of the world’s premiere venues for theatrical talent. And when it works, there is nothing more thrilling.
I am unabashedly fannish and gushing when it comes to theatre, because it is powerful. It can change your life. Television and films simply don’t have the same effect. I wish more children were taken to the theatre. My first experience was Fiddler on the Roof at around age four. I have to admit that I eventually fell asleep, but the image of the fiddler himself is seared into my brain forever, as is Tevye singing “If I Were A Rich Man.”
When I first heard that Ciarán Hinds was going to be in The Crucible, I was not entirely pleased. It’s a play that American children are made to read in school. We were taught that it is a parable of “McCarthyism.” Already when I was a girl, the name “McCarthy” was history. Somehow I kept mixing up Joseph McCarthy (paranoiac demagogue who persecuted Communists) with Eugene McCarthy (liberal anti-war politician and Presidential candidate).
But I dutifully bought a copy of the play and read it for the first time since high school. And I was blown away. Yes, the message about the human propensity for mass panic and bullying is powerful. But what got my attention was the language. Miller created an artificial seventeenth-century “dialect” which would evoke the speech of Puritan Massachusetts, yet be accessible to modern audiences and actors. Then he proceeded to use that language to dazzling effect.
Miller’s Centennial has led to many revivals of his works. The LSH and I have seen two productions of The Crucible in the past year, including a spectacular one directed by Laura Kepley at the Cleveland Playhouse.
The 2016 Broadway production directed by Ivo Van Hove daringly strips away the traditional staging while reaching deep to the roots of the Puritan source material. They say there is nothing quicker than a New York Minute, but Van Hove has staying power. He’s having a New York Year, and what a year: Antigone with Juliette Binoche at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s Lazarus at the NY Theatre Workshop, and two Miller shows on Broadway: A View From the Bridge and The Crucible.
The 2016 production features the paradox of a slightly-built Proctor, inhabited by Ben Whishaw, who conveys all of Proctor’s tenderness, wit, anger and agony. Saoirse Ronan is an unforgettably sexy and malevolent Abigail, while Sophie Okonedo portrays a dignified, intelligent and warm Elizabeth Proctor.
[Excerpt from an interview by Kathy Henderson for Broadway.com]:
This production is excitingly theatrical. Is the play as intense to perform as it is to watch?
CIARÁN HINDS (Deputy Governor Danforth): Oh god, yes. There’s a lot of argument, debate and discussion, and the lighting [in the court scenes] spreads over the first six rows of the audience, so in a way, they’re complicit. We can see them, which requires a much greater focus. It’s kind of scary but also very interesting.
JIM NORTON (Giles Corey): It requires intense listening between the actors to stay in the moment. And [Ciaran] comes on halfway through the play, which is the hardest thing. You have to get up to speed immediately.
CIARÁN: I listen to the first act in my dressing room, just to get into the mood of the work being done and to hear how the audience is responding.
Sitting in the second row, I could hardly believe my eyes when a wolf made its way about the stage, stopping front and center to stare out into the audience. It was a moment of primal awe: these people are engaged in a struggle for their survival, against forces which may well devour them. And yet Salem is a small town, not so different from any small town today with its quarrels and grudges. As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
I am so grateful that I got to see this production. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
I think that what makes theatre magical is it’s evanescence, the fact that you’re attending to something unique, even when it’s captured for a future on-screen broadcasting (the first person to have that brilliant idea deserves a prize, it’s such an incredible gift!) you’re watching and feeling, and living something special. Great idea the customed M&Ms!
I agree with what you say about that Miller picture 🙂
Yes, the evanescence of theatre is part of the magic, and also what makes it so heartbreaking when you miss an amazing show!
Live theatre is just a class of its own. There is something about being THERE, of having something performed for YOU, that touches me every time. It’s probably also the fact that you see the act of creativity happening right in front of you, that is so compelling. Despite that, I see live performances not often enough, even though that was one of the resolutions I had taken from watching The Crucible in London. (Mind you, I have just bought tickets for an unconventional performance on location for tomorrow night…)
In any case, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on theatre/The Crucible here – and I am intrigued by the custom-made MMs. Are they expensive?
Thanks Guylty! The M&Ms are rather expensive when considered as candy. I think they amounted to about $2 a packet, with a minimum order of 20. But maybe not that different from a button. I have done buttons for other shows, but somehow I couldn’t come up with a button design for this one!
You’ve pulled together into one piece some of my favorite memories (so far) of this Crucible run as it involves CH. That interview with Jim Norton and CH for Broadway.com is a classic. What a great fan favor idea – M&Ms! Whatever will you come up with next?
Thanks Ellen. Definitely some great memories of this show, and more to come 🙂
Sylvie G said:
Miller is charismatic persona, both on paper and in real life. Your m&m idea is great !
Thanks! It was good fun 🙂
Oh great idea with the M&Ms 🙂 not to be crunched during the live performance 😉
And yes live theater is truly bewitching, don’t think i’ve been more conscious of it than after this weekend of Shakespeare over-indulgence!
And you are so right, children should really get to experience live theater early on to catch the bug 🙂
My, Mr Howe is doing well for himself in NY! The View from the bridge is brilliant whereas sadly the Antigone is a bit of a damp squid, mostly due to the said main performance, meh. But he’s an interesting director to watch, for sure!
Loved that interview! and the fan photo is special, glowing 🙂
Yes, M&M’s are to be given out at SD, not *before* or *during* a live performance, LOL. I shudder to think of the crinkling of those little plastic bags being opened.
It will be interesting to see what Van Hove does after his Big Year.
i think i read somewhere he was due to do more stuff in London since it was so successful and that would probably mean bringing them to Broadway 6 months later or so, will keep an eye out 🙂
Oh good, that is exciting! I like to keep track of all the directors Mr. H. has worked with. We just saw an older Conor McPherson play here (“Shining City”). And (not Mr. H.-related, but exciting) Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem” is here next month! I can’t wait!
oh great! i just saw Mark Rylance was in that too, but sounds like a very interesting play 🙂
Yes, I got interested in it because of Rylance, but even w/o him, I really want to see it.
Pingback: Girl From the North Country: Fan Fun | Linnet Moss