For the first time in 40 years, PlayMakers will perform in the round — a stage arrangement where the audience sits in a full circle around the performance.
Director Desdemona Chiang proposed the new arrangement. She said she wants to enhance the experience for the audience.
“We want the audience to feel like it’s watching the play in a container, and then by the end have them feel like they’re in the play,” she said.
Sophomore communications major Calliope George will appear in The Crucible alongside professional and student actors. George said she’s excited to work with PlayMakers and with Chiang.
“I really like working with her because she does a lot of work not just on a literary level, but also on a social justice level,” George said. “She looks at plays as not just stories, but speech and change. Things that can be taken outside of just what’s in the script and cast into a bigger context.”
George said she believes Chiang’s decision to perform the play in the round will make things feel more real for the audience.
“In real life we don’t usually see people straight on,” George said. “We tend to see different sides of people, so I think something like this will make it a little more real for people.”
Chiang said this performance is about showing audiences that The Crucible, a story of pitchforks and witch-hunts, is applicable to our society today.
“I make jokes that this is a play about bonnets and aprons, but the idea is that we start in this world, and then we suddenly find ourselves in the modern world,” she said.
Chiang said the play will have particular importance with regard to the upcoming presidential election.
“I’m really interested in how problems that seem far away end up right at our door before we realize it,” she said. “How does something small and distant manage to grow and catch on and spread until it becomes too big? How do people end up feeling so disempowered?”
Vivienne Benesch, producing artistic director, said she believes the time is right for a reboot of The Crucible.
”In an election year, in this particular election year, it seemed like the perfect play to both put forward the value of our company and also to be a point of engagement for us to look at our own visions of citizenry,” she said.
Benesch said she agrees with Chiang’s decision to change the audience seating.
“I was thrilled by this notion because to me, the play wants to create a sort of town hall effect,” she said. “Putting it in the round adds a fantastic dynamic of intimacy.”
She said the last performance will be just days before the election.
“I think we are at a crisis point of looking at our collective and individual sense of responsibility. Theater to me is the tremendous opportunity to sit and experience something in other people’s shoes,” she said.
“I think this play lets us do that quite brilliantly.”