09 AprThe Crucible: A Family Experience
Many, many years ago while I was in college, I discovered Arthur Miller. I read Death of a Salesman for a theater history class. It moved me deeply. I heard about one of his other plays, The Crucible, and decided that I wanted to see it performed. Thirty years passed before an opportunity arrived. BYU, a mere fifty miles away, is producing it this year. I bounced in my seat when I saw the listing.
I would take my family to all the plays at BYU every year if I had the money. Unfortunately, the Arts are not inexpensive, at least on the financial measuring scales I use. Even so, I dug deep and came up with enough for five tickets—one for each of my family members still living at home.
The Crucible deals with the Salem Witch Trials. Speaking with others who have seen it or read it I learned that it is a very heavy piece. I know that when “heavy” is done right it can result in a beautiful, cathartic experience. I trust Arthur Miller. Still, I was worried about how my family members would respond to such a play. My youngest daughter is fourteen and my youngest son is eleven. My daughter I wasn’t too worried about because she is such a perceptive reader. She responds passionately to the books she likes and doesn’t like, but she shows little fear. My youngest son, however, is quite sensitive. It was he I was most worried about.
The play was being produced in an intimate theater in the round. The audience members on the front row have to pull in their feet so as not to trip the actors. I felt the thrill of wonder run through my kids as we walked into the little theater, entirely painted black. The only visible set was a religious poem written on the black wall. The dark environment of the theater effectively cut us off from the rest of the world. Except for the sight of the other audience members we were in the world of 17th Century Salem.
The play, was indeed, very dramatic. It probed the souls of the audience. My wife and sixteen year old son watched attentively, but showed no signs of what they were feeling. My fourteen year old daughter watched attentively and passionately. I could feel her anger as the actor who was claiming the land of those being executed for being witches chuckled as he walked within inches of her as he passed of stage.
I glanced at my eleven year old son several times during the play to make sure he was all right. I didn’t detect anything in the play that alarmed me as inappropriate for him, but still, I was worried. Twice during the play he made physical contact with me. Once he put his arm through mine. Another time he held my hand. He did these things gently, calmly, as one who was glad his Dad was there, but not as one frightened or trying to hide.
At the dramatic ending, where I fought tears, I looked at this young son. He was calm and looked curiously thoughtful. After we left the theater I asked him what he thought of the ending.
“I didn’t really understand it,” he said, looking a little embarrassed.
That was okay with me. His just sitting through it was impressive enough. My wife said she was still thinking about it. My sixteen year old, tongue-in-cheek and rather perceptively, said that “it wasn’t a Disney show.” My fourteen year old daughter said, well, she had a lot to say. She and I have been taking about the play ever since.
A stop at Kung Foo Panda (Panda Express) with its colorful, spicy food made a nice contrast to the dark theater. It was like ice cream after tacos and made a nice end to a fantastic family outing.