News & Notables

Act 1 Offers a Re-imagined Production of “The Crucible”

by Roseann Damico Schatkowski | Jan 24, 2017

Arthur Miller’s study of fear and control is an insightful American classic

Act 1 DeSales University Theatre continues its 47th season with Arthur Miller’s powerful drama, “The Crucible.” This tragic masterpiece will be presented February 22 to March 5, 2017 on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, Center Valley, Pa.

“The Crucible” takes place in the deeply religious community of Salem, headed by the local pastor, Reverend Parris, whose daughter Betty has fallen ill after having been caught dancing in the woods with a group of other young girls. Rumors of witchcraft spread through the community as paranoia and panic run rampant. “The Crucible” plays part cautionary tale, supernatural thriller, and frenzied mystery, as themes of manipulation and panic are unleashed. “Miller uses ‘The Crucible’ to fictionalize the way that unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo can ignite an uncontrolled firestorm of hatred and fear,” says John Bell, Head of the Division of Performing Arts.

Arguably one of America’s greatest playwrights, Arthur Miller has garnered countless credits, critical acclaim, and a myriad of awards for plays such as “All My Sons,” and “Death of a Salesman.  After a spectacular debut with “Salesman,” it seemed that Miller’s next play would have to be revolutionary. Unfortunately, when “The Crucible” premiered in 1953, theatregoers were shocked by the scathing social commentary and poignant themes presented by the drama. Parallels to McCarthyism struck deeply.  Initially, the play received incredibly negative feedback. However, its insightful observations and powerful message eventually earned the play multiple revivals and a permanent place in the American dramatic canon. 

Associate Professor of Theatre Steven Dennis directs, offering a new take on the production. “We’re working to re-imagine the play: what might we discover if we lifted the story out of the Salem of 1692, and created a world borrowing from past, present, and future?,” says Dennis. “We hope that this might lend itself towards an audience experiencing the piece, not as a historic play, but as one with universal themes that explore the human condition.” Adds Bell, “I'm particularly excited that Steven Dennis is working with his cast and designers to create a fresh new interpretation of the play—one that pays homage to the tradition in which the play was written and first premiered, but which re-imagines the world of the play.”

“The Crucible” is brought to life with sets and costumes by Act 1’s resident creative faculty team: scenic designer Will Neuert, guest costume designer Deborah Burrill, and lighting and sound designer Elizabeth Elliott.

The production runs February 22 to March 5, 2017 on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. There is a morning matinee on Thursday, March 2 at 9:45 AM, followed by a talkback with the director and cast. A talk back is also scheduled for Sunday, February 26 after the 2:00 PM performance.

Join Director of Development Debra Walter on Sunday, February 12 at 2:00 PM in the Commonwealth Room of the DeSales University Center as she welcomes a panel for an illuminating discussion exploring the complex themes in “The Crucible.” “Witches, Communists, and Terrorist” will use Miller’s play as the starting point for three DeSales faculty members to explore fear, threat and the judicial process. The panel, which will be moderated by DeSales alumnus Stephen M. Van Nattan, will feature a group of DeSales faculty members including American history specialist Sarah Nytroe, political scientist Andrew Essig, and retired FBI agent Al Sproule. The event is open to the public and includes desserts, coffee, and tea. Doors open at 1:30 PM. The cost is $10.

In an effort to improve accessibility for all patrons, the Saturday, February 25, 8:00 PM performance will feature Open Captioning for patrons who are deaf or hearing impaired and Audio Descriptions for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. During Open Captioned performances, all dialogue and sound effects are presented in real-time on an LED screen that is adjacent to the stage. During Audio Described performances, all action and physical appearances are described live through a headset. Tickets are half price for patrons using these special services on this date. Please call box office manager Catherine Logan at 610-282-3654, ext. 1 for more information.

Ticket prices are $21 for adults and $19 for students and seniors on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $25 for adults and $23 for students and seniors on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Group discounts are available for all performances. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Labuda Center box office at 610-282-3192 or by visiting the web site at

The Labuda Center is fully accessible and equipped with a listening enhancement system. Special seating is available for our patrons using wheelchairs or requiring other assistance. Please inform the box office of your needs when ordering tickets.

Sources for the research of this piece were taken from various historical essays and reviews, including an article by Michael Billington on the Guardian Features Page.

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