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February 19, 1999 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-19

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14 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 19, 1999

-FRIDAYFOCUS

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Suddenly, Arthur Miller's all
the rage. Throughout the past
two weeks, scores of articles
and reviews have appeared,
splashed across the pages of The
New York Times, The New
Yorker and Time Magazine,
among others. While the prompt-
ing of such attention can be attrib-
uted to the recent Broadway
revival of "Death of Salesman" -
the 50th anniversary production
- there is a certain sense of
Miller nostalgia taking place in the
Ann Arbor wing of the theater
world.
Joining the recent blooming of Miller
fervor, two University groups are present-
ing productions of "The Crucible" and
"All My Sons" this semester. The School
of Music's department of musical theater
is performing a studio production of"The
Crucible" this weekend and UAC's ude
Mechanicals will setthiieMendelssohn
stage next month with pOst-WWIItrau-
ma as they highlight the tragedy-stricken
lives of Joe Keller and his family in "All
My Sons."
Possibly sparking the interest in
Miller's works are plans for the
University's Arthur Miller Theater.
Although no definite detailscan be eon-
firmed, the edifice is expetrted to begin
construction by autumn of 2000. Last
semester, an English literature course
titled "The Stages of Arthur Miller" was
offered for the first time in the depart-
ment's curriculum. Prof. Enoch Brater
described it as "the first of its kind, ever,
in the world."
It seems that Arthur Miller, the greatest
living American playwright, is making his
way home. The University's most famous
and intriguing alumnus, Miller is also the
world's most produced playwright, beat-
ing out William Shakespeare. He began
his writing career while under the guid-
ance of University theater professor
Kenneth Thorpe Rowe before graduating
with an English lit degree in 1938. His
first big success didn't come until 1947
when "All My Sons" gave him a name
and a pocketbook.
The playwright is known for his tragic
Orama, defined as unique to the American
theater because of its insistence upon a
common human realism - his plays
don't entertain as much as they provoke
an audience to cast some self-doubt and
personal examination. He was a student
of the Ibsen style of playwrighting, one in
which the common man is subjected to
heightened downfalls and personal
tragedies. He is an American playwright
because he, in his own words: "isa
Darwinian who had learned to expect no
mercy (although he might still secretly
hope for a little)."
But there are no heroes in Arthur
Miller's dramas. There are no definite
antagonists and protagonists, save society
itself. In "Death of a Salesman," Willy
Loman cannot be blamed for his personal
failures, but neither can his son, Biff. One
question that arises in this and many other
of Miller's works is "Who is to take
responsibility? Who is at fault?" The two
groups of students who are presenting
"The Crucible" and "All My Sons" will
attempt to answer those questions.
Witch's Brew of Mayhem
"The Crucible" examines the witch tri-
als of Salem, Mass. near the end of the
17th Century. Miller concentrates on the
moral reasoning for such a horrific event
by brilliantly recreating the lives of the
women and men who caused such
spiritual commotion. Written in
1953 during Joe McCarthy's
House Committee on Un-
American Activities hearings,
"The Crucible" was Miller's
artistic throwback to the para-
noia surrounding a too conser-

vative American goven-
ment. After appearing
before the committee
numerous times to
defend himself of

Good Wife Proctor, Abby seeks to
destroy them through false accusations of
witchcraft and black magic.
"He doesn't see the societal responsi-
bility in himself. I think a lot of people
today would weigh on their shoulders the
decision he made. He experiences :a
moment of truth that very rarely strikes
any of us," Music sophomore Robert
Rokicki said of John Proctor, the charac-
ter he portrays in the show.
The decision to perform "The
Crucible" was made by theater and drama
Prof. Philip Kerr, who presented the idea
to musical theater department chair Brent
Wagner. "I thought we should do some-
thing by Miller because we haven't done
anything by him in such a long time,"
Kerr said.
This production of "The Crucible"
marks the musical theater department's
third such non-musical play to be direct-
ed by Kerr. Two years ago brought Ari
Roth's "Born Guilty" to the Trueblood
Theater. Last year's "A Midsummer
Night's Dream" played to packed audi-
ences, who enjoyed the cross-gendered
casting in a rich production full of feather
boas and heavy metal. The purpose in pre-
senting a non-musical play is to give the
students a chance to hone their acting
skills in a production that concentrates
solely on the acting. "This production (of

"It is important because it takes out of
the show a huge scapegoat. The play is
not about one person accepting blame.
Having Tituba in the play makes it a hard
task for the audience because, truly,
everyone's at fault," Gleichauf pondered.
Like many of the other women in
Salem, Goody Good is displaced in a
society where everyone is suspicious of
unmarried women. She and the rest of the
accused are innocent victims of an envi-
ronment where personal identity doesn't
figure as prominently as group think.
"The entire cast is a historical figure.
(In this production) everyone has a per-
sonal identity - it's not just a chorus. It's
a very layered piece -a wittier, mightier
play than one might think. Even Miller's
catalyst in creating it came from the late
'40s. We haven't lost any of its edge,
Kerr explained.
Kerr described the play as a morality,
play because it asks more questions than,
it provides answers.
"He doesn't let you off. Miller's unre-
lenting," Kerr said.
Additionally, Kerr has decided to omit-
the second scene from the second act-
an occurrence not rare to many other
"Crucible" productions. The passionate
scene features a moment in the woodr
where Abigail's and John's tryst is con-
firmed, at least, through their lustful con-

about war profiteering and its
a guilty conscience. It is or
most structured plays and i9
political commentary and
too-perfect series ofevents
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"The Crucible") is not a workshop. It's a
full-blooded production," Kerr said.
Kerr has made some slight alterations
to the script, giving new motivation for
much of the play's action. Having cut the
character of Tituba, the female Caribbean
slave, entirely out of the play, Kerr
believes that more focus will be placed on
the brainwashed ways of the Salem soci-
ety - no particular person can be blamed
for the evil that is incurred.
"There's a sharper focus on the girls
just dancing for the fun of it - Abby
takes it onto herself to dance. I've given
most of Tituba's lines to Sarah Good, who
I've featured a bit more prominently,"
Kerr said.
Music junior Anna Gleichauf, who
portrays Abby in the show, agrees with
Kerr's decision to omit Tituba from the
play.

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versation and climactic bout. The roman-
tic interlude, which was performed in the
original Broadway production, was omit-
ted by Miller in the published version of
the play, and hasn't been performed sub-
sequent to the Broadway revival at the
Martinique Theater-in 1958. Kerr does-
n't find the scene adding anything to the
play.
"I thought itwas quite a mistake. Since
then, it's rarely done. It burdens the play
and takes it down the Post-Freudian spec-
tacle. I think we know what Abby feels
and what John Proctor feels without hav-
ing seen it," Kerr stated.
Gleichauf finds the main tension of the
play in society's denial of personal free-
dom.
"What is sacrificed - what ends up
being ruined is the people's right to free-
dom - the right to be unjudgedtbecause
it's a society that attacks people's self
expression," Gleichauf explained.
"Miller's plays strike a chord with so
many people because he writes about
humans with flaws. He's not afraid of
showing imperfect people. All of
these characters have flaws that all of
us have."
Music sophomore Maclain Looper,
who portrays Rev. John Hale in "The
Crucible," finds Miller's work to be
inspiring because "every character he
writes about takes a huge journey."
Looper believes the play to be an
American classic because of its subject
matter. "It's an image of what America
is, then and now," he said.
Agreeing with Looper's vision of the
play's timelessness -is Music junior
Patricia Lavery, who portrays Goody
Proctor. "'The Crucible' is timeless
because it's happening now. Americans
have a hard time refraining from judging
their neighbors. In this society we all
know each other. The play is about our
envy and our greed," Lavery said.
Kerr explained, "It's a big play - it's
a tragedy. It reads like a detective story.
As it gets more assembled, it gets more
horrific. It's important because it has
another resonance in our own time. It's a
play about society run amok."
"The Crucible" runs tonight and tomor-
row at 8 p.m. and tomorrow and Sunday
at 2 p.m. Free tickets can be picked up at.
the League Ticket Offie. Call 764-04i0

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used his pen -
the greatest
weapon - to
confront the
silly attacks.
The citizens
of 17th Century
Salem were sec-
ond generation
Calvinists, a reli-
gious breed whose
beliefs rested sole-
ly on a strict inter-
pretation of an
already too-structured
theology. Abigail, the
inflamed anti-heroine
of "The Crucible,"
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