Almost every high school theater department has staged The Crucible at one time or another, putting 16-year-olds in bad grey wigs and eyeliner-etched wrinkles. But Tin Roof Productions artistic director Karen Hamer promises that her nonprofit theater organization's rendition will be a "fully staged and multi-age" affair.
"I had read it in high school," Hamer says, "but all I remembered was Goody this and Goody that." (The title Goody is used in lieu of Mrs. in the play.) After some students in an acting class she was teaching requested The Crucible for scene work, Hamer revisited the play and, she says, realized why it still gets performed. "I was on the edge of my seat wondering what on earth will happen next."
Set during the 17th-century Salem witch trials, the story follows the village inhabitants as they get swept into the hysteria of teenage girls who wrongfully accuse residents of being in league with Satan. Hamer, who's also the director, says the love story between a flawed man and his distrustful wife captured her interest the most. But since it was written by Arthur Miller as a response to the McCarthyism of the 1950s, the play naturally deals with heavy political and historic themes.
To overcome the "natural barrier of 300 years" between the characters and the audience — "I didn't want people saying, 'Oh, it's sad these things happened back then'" — Hamer decided to "give a nod to the '50s" with costuming and set design.
"The Puritan look is the Puritan look is the Puritan look," says designer and costumer Heather Clark. "It's been done to death, and it's boring to look at."
Clark says she found historical parallels in clothing design elements between the '50s and the 1690s and incorporated them into the costuming.
"I'm going for a time-out-of-time look," she says, "that will hopefully say something subtle about the themes of the play."