Q&A with 'Crucible' director Joel Ibanez

Q: How did you get involved with Cottage Theatre?

A: I moved here three years ago and I just saw an audition posting for the show “Spelling Bee” and have been doing it ever since.

Q: During the off-season, directors pitch potential shows to the Cottage Theatre for the following season. How did you go about pitching such a classical play as “The Crucible?” Is there something different about your production?

A: I did “The Crucible” in college and it was one of the worst plays I’ve ever done in my entire life and wanted to redeem it because I love this script so much. We’re doing it with a 1960-1970s horror movie scene. At the heart of the play it’s really a drama but we made this set very dark with a lot of blues and blacks in the lights and the painting.

Q: Walk us through the plot for those who may not be familiar with the play.

A: It’s essentially about the Salem Witch Trials it’s about John Proctor and Abigail Williams who lived in Salem. It’s riffing on McCarthyism. Arthur Miller (the playwright) himself was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee after “The Crucible” was written but several of his friends were called before it was written and that’s what inspired him. It’s PG-13 for sure.

Q: The courtroom scene has become iconic. How did you handle the staging of the scene?

A: That’s a hard question. We’re doing the script pretty traditionally. I stuck to that scene pretty traditionally. It’s incredibly difficult to block because there’s so many people. The Cottage Theatre is a great theatre for that but it’s the whole cast except for two members and they’re on stage for the entire scene and sightlines and movement can get muddy if you’re not careful. I’ve been blocking this show since June of last year.

Q: The Crucible was originally published in the 1950s but its themes of tolerance, hysteria, rebellion and faith still ring true and the play continues to find an audience today. Why do you think that is?

A: I think that Arthur Miller, personally knew when he wrote the play that these things were going to continue to happen all the time. This play happens in the 1600s and he found connections in the 1950s. People are always going to be afraid of each other and as long as they are, plays like “The Crucible” are going to be necessary. It’s a fear of what people are hiding. They’re accusing each other of witchcraft, communism and maybe today, terrorism.

Q: What performances really stand out to you and what should audiences be on the lookout for?

I blocked the bows to be one bow because it can’t function without everyone in the cast. We have some Cottage Theatre veterans in our cast, some veteran actors in general. Just be prepared to be a little spooked. We’ve definitely made it a little more intense.

“The Crucible” is playing at the Cottage Theatre through June 24. Tickets range from $15 to $25. For more information, visit cottagetheatre.org

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