The Masks We Wear

by Amanda Alley, dramaturg

If you were able to attend The Crucible, you may have noticed the judge’s table and the church door displayed outside the Margetts Theatre.

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You may have even taken the time to confess to witchcraft, or accuse a friend of such misdeeds.

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We had several accusations and confessions that aluded to magical literature:

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Brother accused sister, student accused teacher, husband accused wife. There were even references to other shows produced at BYU this season: Continue reading

A City Set on a Hill

by Amanda Alley, dramaturg

Pilgrims whiteSalem was a town founded on Puritan beliefs. In fact, the settlement was designed to set an example of righteousness for the rest of humanity. Their goal was to separate themselves from the world and create a unified society centered on the principles of their faith. This Puritan community in the New World would be governed by Puritan doctrines, and all would abide in peace. Even the name of the town reflected that ideal: Salem was derived from the Hebrew word Shalom, which means “peace.” The settlement would be an example of righteous living that would shine forth to the rest of the world.

Of course, we know this wasn’t the case, but their religious statutes gave them hope for such a place. A few of their commonly held beliefs were: Continue reading

Fanning the Flame

by Amanda Alley, dramaturg

The Crucible revolves around an infamous historical event. But how did it all begin?

The Puritans settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to create a unified community. However, in the years leading up to the witch trials, all was not well in Salem. There were several social, political, and religious tensions that grew to provide kindling to the fire that became the Salem Witch Hunt.

In 1684, the Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter was revoked after colonists broke several of its statutes, specifically those dealing with the separation of church and state. This meant that the colonists were no longer free to govern themselves, and a royally appointed government was established. The colonists, angry over the change, overthrew this government in 1689. Unfortunately, this left them with a dysfunctional court system.

Socially, the town was split into two sectors: those who supported Reverend Samuel Parris, and those who thought he should be replaced. Those who disagreed with Parris and his followers were typically the more affluent farmers who lived to the west. Later, we would see a similar correlation in the witch trials. The farmers in the west were often accused, while the Parris supporters to the east frequently made the accusations.

In addition to village rivalries, relations with the Indians increased the strain on Salem’s inhabitants. The threat the Indians posed was real and spiritual. Thomas and Ann Putnam’s servant Mercy Lewis was orphaned when Indians attacked the town of Falmouth in Maine, and the people of Salem remembered such events vividly. Indians were also viewed as devil worshippers, which threatened the safety of villagers’ souls as well as their bodies.

All of these tensions fed the spark that would ignite the Salem Witch Trials.

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The Crucible in Rehearsal

by Amanda Welch, dramaturg

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The Crucible is a weighty show and deals with deceit, adultery, and injustice. The tension caused by lust and lies slowly builds throughout the performance, ending with quite the climax. While I can’t tell you what that climax is, I can show you how the actors and director handle the stress of that tension. Sometimes, you’ve just got to laugh. Continue reading

The Two Histories of The Crucible

by Kristin Perkins, assistant dramaturg

crucible-1140x600-1024x539What excites me as the assistant dramaturg for The Crucible, is the level of depth in this play. There is so much to dive into between the rich dramatic themes, vivid characterization, and, not to mention, the exploration of how BYU’s production handles the script in unique ways. I get especially excited about the history; drawing connections, revealing embedded themes, and separating what is historically true from the dramatic “truth” of the play. There is really two histories that inform The Crucible. Most obviously, the play is loosely based on the events of the Salem Witch Trials. Miller certainly did his research but also felt free to adjust some of the history in order to fulfill the dramatic structure he wanted. The other history that deeply informs this play is that of the Red Scare which Miller lived through and felt strongly about. We will be exploring these dual histories in The Fourth Wall but we figured it would be best to start here: in a Puritan settlement, in 1692:

A Brief Chronology of the Salem Witch Trials

  • Early February – The first written records appear of adults in Salem being concerned about the behavior of several young girls in the town who had been experimenting with “witchcraft.”
  • February 29 – Three arrests are made (Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba). Tituba confesses to witchcraft and all three women are jailed.
  • March – Reverend Deodat Lawson travels from Boston to join Reverend Parris in investigating the claims of witchcraft.
  • March – Martha Corey becomes the fourth person accused of witchcraft.
  • March 23/24 – Dorcas Good (the four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good) is imprisoned. Rebecca Nurse is also jailed.
  • April 11 – The extent of the problem means that examinations from here forward were moved from Salem Village to Salem Town, and the examinations were carried out in front of the deputy governor and six magistrates. More and more people are jailed.
  • April 21 – Abigail Williams accuses George Burroughs, a former minister of Salem Village, of being a Wizard and the mastermind behind the outbreak. A warrant is sent to Maine for his arrest.
  • *Up until this point Massachusetts was without a legally established government since the previous government had been overthrown in a bloodless coup d’etat in 1689. This means that for the last three months lots of people were being jailed but no one could be sentenced without a working court system. This becomes important because finally:
  • May 14 – Sir William Phips arrives with the new charter for Massachusetts and establishes a special “Court of Oyer and Terminer” to decide on all the witchcraft cases. Phips himself serves as the chief justice of the court.
  • June 2 – The first trial is finally held by the special court and sentences Bridget Bishop to death. She is hanged on June 10.
  • June 29 – The court holds its second round, this time trying five women instead of one. All five women are sentenced to death; they are hanged July 19th.
  • August 5 – Six more people are sentenced to die including John Proctor and George Burroughs; five are hanged August 19th. Elizabeth Proctor, the sixth, is reprieved because of her pregnancy.
  • Early September – Six more people are condemned. One is reprieved and one manages to escape from prison and go free.
  • September 17 – Nine more people are condemned but five confess and are reprieved. Giles Corey refuses to plead to the charges and is pressed by heavy weights progressively piled on his body. He dies after two days of this torture.
  • September 22 – The eight people who had been sentenced and not reprieved in the month of September are hanged. There are more than 100 suspected witches in jails.
  • Early October – Under the leadership of Increase Mather, a group of ministers publicly condemn the trials. They emphasize the need for strong evidence and to avoid killing innocent people at all costs.

Death Toll:

June 10

Bridget Bishop

July 19

Rebecca Nurse

Sarah Good

Susannah Martin

Elizabeth Howe

Sarah Wildes

August 19

George Burroughs

Martha Carrier

John Willard

George Jacobs, Sr.

John Proctor

September 19

Giles Corey*

September 22

Martha Corey

Mary Eastey

Ann Pudeator

Alice Parker

Mary Parker

Wilmott Redd

Margaret Scott

Samuel Wardwell

Died in Prison

Sarah Osborn

Roger Toothaker

Lyndia Dustin

Ann Foster

(with the possibility of others)

* Crushed instead of hanged.

Continue reading

Defining “Crucible”

by Amanda Alley, dramaturg

A crucible is defined as a situation or trial that leads to the creation of something new; a purifying process. There could be no more fitting title than The Crucible for Arthur Miller’s play depicting the Salem witch hunt.

Welcome to the 4th Wall Dramaturgy, and a glimpse into BYU’s The Crucible. To get us started with this production, I want to take a look back at the events that inspired the play.

Vintage Crucible ScriptBetween 1692 and 1693, 200 people in and around Salem, Massachusetts were accused of witchcraft, and 20 were executed as a result. The event is a dark spot in our nation’s history and is difficult to discuss. So why look back?

Reflecting upon the horrors of the witch hunt ignited a change in our judicial system. The formation of an American government brought with it a philosophy that one is “innocent until proven guilty” – a concept opposite to that found in the courts of 17th century New England. Continue reading