Vicious witch hunts, then and now

THSS stages Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a Tony award-winning tale of mob mentality and mass hysteria

(From left) John Procter (Mitchell Desabrais-Tremblay) confronts Abigail Williams (Erica Ford) in a scene from The Crucible.

(From left) John Procter (Mitchell Desabrais-Tremblay) confronts Abigail Williams (Erica Ford) in a scene from The Crucible.

Anyone looking for modern-day parallels in The Crucible won’t have to look far.

Arthur Miller’s play – about the witch trials which took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 – – speaks to anyone who has lived in a place where questioning authority can lead to punishment. Think of the battles fought in Egypt and still ensuing in Syria and Libya.

Closer to home, false accusations, mass hysteria and rumours now find a platform on the Internet on sites such as Facebook and thedirty.com.

“It’s frighteningly nothing new,” says Thomas Haney drama teacher Shelly Evans, who picked The Crucible for her spring production.

“Do we ever learn? Sixteen-hundred and twenty-eleven and the same stuff is going on.”

Written in 1953, The Crucible recounts the events surrounding the trials, where 19 innocent men and women were hanged for witchcraft.

Although it is a work of historical fiction, the play is a parable about anti-communist hysteria during the Cold War and the “witch -hunts” of McCarthyism.

Evans says she’s also drawn comparison between rumour-mongering in a Puritan village in 17th century and bullying on Facebook.

“They can see how easy it is to facelessly spread rumours and how damaging it can be,” says Evan. “Here, it killed 19 people.”

The play has made Mitchell Desabrais-Tremblay think twice about gossip, not just the whispering in high school corridors but conversations at home.

Desabrais-Tremblay plays John Proctor, a respected farmer and husband who has an affair with the play’s antagonist, teenage Abigail Williams.

He isn’t as quick to judge people these days.

“A small scale rumour can be blow out of proportion really quick,” says Desabrais-Tremblay, who is in Grade 12.

“Now I think through the motivations. It makes me sit down and think – is it real?

Erica Ford, 15, is a convincing Abigail Williams, who viciously accuses many Salem residents of witchcraft, starting first with the outcasts of society and gradually moving to the community’s most respected members.

“She is very complex,” says Ford, explaining that her character is an orphan who is looking for love.

Abigail found love in John Proctor, but, adds Ford, “he’s taken it away from her and she’s gone absolutely crazy because she really cares about him and she feels like he is not reciprocating.”

Playing a 17-year-old who accuses her ex-lover’s wife of witchery has made Ford want to be a better person, perhaps learn from Abigail’s flaws. She is fake and two-faced, notes Ford.

“I see how bad of a person [Abigail] can be and it makes me not want to be like her. You just want to be the opposite. “

Showtime

Thomas Haney Secondary Sightlines Theatre presents Arthur Miller’s Tony award-winning play The Crucible. The Crucible plays May 17, 18 and 19. The show starts at 7 p.m. There will also be a matinée show on May 18 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students and seniors, and $8 for adults. Info: 604-463-2001.