The audience will sit just 2 or 3 yards from the heat when Summit High School student actors perform “The Crucible.”
The play opens Thursday, March 27 with a performance at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium.
The show features a 20-student cast and six or seven crew members, said Jeff Dixon, the school’s vocal music director. The audience will sit on the stage in a black-box setup that seats about 100 people.
Junior Jimmy Patalan described the play — a social commentary comparing the Salem witch trials with McCarthy’s communist Red Scare in the 1950s — as writer Arthur Miller’s way of saying, “You’re being ridiculous. Let me show you how ridiculous you’re being.”
The play lets students grapple with issues like racism and homophobia in the U.S., said director Chris Alleman, the artistic director for the Lake Dillon Theatre Company. He’s had conversations with the students during rehearsals about the impact of the play then and now.
“So much of it is fact,” sophomore Cait McCluskie, 15, said, “that when you really think about it, it’s wild.”
Though the show’s ultimate goal is entertainment, Alleman said, “if somebody learns something from it, all the better.”
“I think politics in general has not changed over the past 300 years,” Alleman said. Like those in power today often do, he said, a character in the show sticks to his position after realizing he was wrong. But the character doesn’t want to admit that after hanging 12 people.
That role is played by Patalan, 17.
“It’s always fun to be a bad guy,” he said.
McCluskie also said she enjoys being “dramatic and evil” for her part as main character Abigail Williams after playing “good girl” roles.
This show will be the last high school performance for three seniors.
Danny Daigle, 18, who plays main character John Proctor, said he is excited to continue his acting career as a musical theater major at the University of Wyoming, but sad to leave the other seniors.
After spending two months after school together, stage manager Alyssa Marchiori, 17, said, “we’re like a big family here.”
She and the backstage crew don’t get enough credit, said sophomore Zoe Hough, 15, who plays Mercy Lewis, because “they’re not in the light.”
The crew found beetle-kill trees for the set and painted them a sooty black, Alleman said. This goes along with the play’s charred motif, a subtle symbol that at the end, “things have changed drastically as if a fire has ripped through.”