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East Lansing High School’s Theater Department will present Arthur Miller’s classic play “The Crucible,” this week, with shows November 15-18.
Although the play was written in 1953, long before any of the actors were born, the message remains relevant for audiences. The themes of reputation, respect, judgement, hysteria, and persecution are all important throughout the story which, remains timeless despite the literal witch hunt taking place in the play’s 1600s setting.
Eleventh grader Zoe Aho plays Rebecca Nurse, a respected elder in Puritan Salem, Massachusetts. “The Crucible was written to reflect the political and social climate in the 1950s, and the theme of politics still shows through with our government and people today,” Aho said. “I think we often disconnect ourselves from the emotional aspect of history, so when we become these people, it really makes the events more real. Our hope is to make it real for the audience as well.”
Parent coordinator/adviser Meaghan Gonzales admits that when she learned that The Crucible would be the fall play, she thought it was a strange choice. Once she learned that the book was required in many East Lansing High School English classes, she slowly changed her mind.
“The fall show at East Lansing High School is always a more dramatic performance,” Gonzales said. “It really highlights the student’s ability to step out of their teenage life, and into characters completely different from them.”
“The Spring show is always fun and full of singing and dancing, very visually appealing,” Gonzales said. “This show is more about the acting and ‘getting into character.’ The kids have to rely on their acting abilities and knowledge of their characters to keep the audience engaged.”
Aho has been involved in theater since her freshman year, but this play differs greatly from other productions she’s been in, like “Guys and Dolls.”
“Rebecca has been different from my past roles,” Aho said, “so I’ve learned to be more versatile,” she said of her role. In developing the character, the high school junior has noticed one similar characteristic she shares with Rebecca – speaking her mind. One major difference is Rebecca’s sense of traditionalism, a contrast to Aho’s view of herself a progressive person.
Gonzales also credits Director Adam Woolsey for allowing the students to really take center stage with the production.
“He has really been able to relate to the kids, tap quite a bit of talent, and energy.” Gonzales said. “He really does want this to be the student’s show. He has allowed students to take over as leaders in many aspects, such as designing the program, allowing students to direct on tech crew, and even having a student stage manager.”
Gonzales got involved with the theater program after her daughter Kayleigh Rust became the tech director and light designer. Together with fellow theater mom Jenn Wyble, she coordinates volunteers for ticket sales/concessions, and organizes the opening night and closing night dinner parties for the cast and crew. Gonzales and Wyble also help with promotion, but students like her daughter Kayleigh are primarily responsible for the design and construction of the set and props.
Ultimately, this freedom and added responsibility has seemed to pay off in terms of a higher level of student production, according to Gonzales. “Giving them more ownership seems to have given them more pride in their performance,” Gonzales said.
Performances of The Crucible will take place in the East Lansing High School on November 15 at 7:00, November 16 at 7:30, November 17 at 7:30, and November 18 at 2:30. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door, and payment will be accepted in the form of cash or check only.
East Lansing High School is located at 509 Burcham Drive.
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