Troy University’s Department of Theatre and Dance will be presenting its production of a Tony Award-winning play this week after two months of rehearsal.
Wednesday night, the theater department opened “The Crucible,” a three-act play by Arthur Miller about the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts. The script won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1953.
At the head of “The Crucible” is Quinton Cockrell, director of the production and an acting professor at Troy University. He said that college students could learn a lot from watching the production.
“It examines fear and how people can use fear to control people and get what they want,” Cockrell said. “(The play) has a lot of intellectual corridors to walk down for a college audience.”
Cockrell also said that the theater students had opportunities to educationally grow from performing in the play.
“I think one of the most essential things you can teach to people who are trying to be artists in the theater is how to handle language,” Cockrell said. “If you take that language apart and you use it, it almost does the work for you.”
While the play itself is based in the late 1600s, it was written to draw comparisons between the trials and the hysteria during the “Red Scare,” an anti-communist movement in which Miller himself was a victim.
“It addresses a lot of issues that still affect us,” Cockrell said, “like the separation of church and state, the dangers of living in a theocracy and what happens when mass hysteria occurs.”
Cockrell, who has experience as a professional actor, said he tried to give his cast the closest thing to a professional experience with this rehearsal process.
“I really try to give the students here what I got,” Cockrell said. “I am conducting it as I feel a professional director would. In the classroom, I’m much more nurturing … but when you’re in a professional environment, you just got to get stuff done.”
One of his cast members, Nick Motz, who plays the lead role of John Proctor, said that the professionalism was what made the show enjoyable.
“Quinton runs a well-oiled machine in rehearsal,” said Motz, a junior theater major from Tuscaloosa. “I feel like we get a lot of work done … This is my favorite show I’ve ever been a part of.
“When you really dive into a piece, it’s like accessing a part of your past life … Everything in that text resonates with you.”
Motz also said that the pressure has been significant with playing such a large role.
“I’ve had upperclassmen that I’ve never really spoken to approach me and say, ‘I’m really excited for your performance,’ ” Motz said. “It’s definitely stressful… but it couldn’t have worked out better.”
Cockrell said this process has allowed him to grow as a director.
“I’m becoming less authoritarian when it comes to directing, I think,” Cockrell said. “I truly think it starts with the actors … I’ve become much more open to suggestions from the company.”
Cockrell said his wish for the show is that audiences relate to it.
“I hope everyone will give this play a chance,” Cockrell said. “I want people to see themselves on that stage. If you peel the layers off of all of us, you’ll see those characters.”
“The Crucible” runs Oct. 14-19 in the Trojan Center Theatre. The play starts at 7 every night except Sunday. The Sunday show will be a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 to the general public and $5 for students.