Hart House’s production of Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic The Crucible opens this Friday, January 19. The play is a fictionalized tale about the Salem witch trials of the 17th century, written as an allegory for the McCarthyism and Red Scares of the post-World War II era.
The Varsity had a chance to sit down with the show’s director, Michael Rubinstein, to discuss what audiences can expect from the show, and why The Crucible is just as relevant today as it was when it premiered on Broadway 65 years ago.
Rubinstein himself has played many different roles in the theatre industry, throughout his career in both Toronto and the United Kingdom. He is returning to Hart House Theatre after working as assistant director of its 2012 production of Cabaret, and he was drawn to The Crucible due to his passion for the revival of classics and reframing them in ways which resonate with today’s audiences.
Rubinstein stressed that The Crucible is a story which anyone in the audience will be able to relate to. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” he said, when asked about the production’s relevance to today’s society. “Its basic core of themes and ideas, from relationships to individual, conflicts within society as a whole and individually, coming of age… the current politics that are going on in the US and worldwide, how religion affects people.”
“There is a divide in society being created by fear in politics. When there is a divide in society, there is a breakdown of society, and this show reflects that,” he added.
The challenge of directing The Crucible is that it is a “a mammoth” of a play, according to Rubinstein. He has attempted to highlight the themes in the play which represented the most important stories to be told at this moment.
“History continually repeats itself. Arthur Miller wrote this play to reflect the McCarthy trials, based on the [Salem] witch trials three centuries before that, and today we’re still experiencing the exact same issues… By getting this message again and again, hopefully we’ll begin to learn,” said Rubinstein.
Rubinstein assured me that the audience will not be seeing any bonnets or jerkins in this production, reflecting efforts to update the play for a contemporary audience. “With a show like The Crucible, where the message is so important, you want that message to be as accessible as possible,” he said. “The goal of the production team, design team, and the cast was to break down any barriers that separate today’s audience from The Crucible.”
“The show is not a museum piece,” said Rubinstein. Instead, the set and costumes will be based upon multicultural traditions and recognizable fairytale archetypes.
The Crucible‘s award-winning design team has been working with a cast of various professional backgrounds to pull together the play. The show is set to feature a strong cast, 14 of whom will be making their debut on the Hart House Theatre stage.
The Crucible runs from January 19 to February 3 at Hart House Theatre. Tickets are $15 for students.