Studio Theatre’s ‘John Proctor Is the Villain’ reconsider’s ‘The Crucible’ for the modern-day age

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correction

An before edition of this story misquoted playwright Kimberly Belflower. Recounting a discussion she experienced with her father about “The Crucible,” Belflower recalled that it was she, not he, who explained that “John Proctor is the villain.” The report has been corrected.

There are numerous strategies to adapt an aged play for a new period. You can restage Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” for illustration, in Mussolini’s Rome or Nixon’s Washington. You can rewrite an 18th-century script in fashionable dialogue, as Theater J lately did with “Nathan the Clever.” Or you can do what Kimberly Belflower is executing with the expert premiere of her enjoy, “John Proctor Is the Villain,” now at the Studio Theatre: You can reconsider Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” by imagining a 2018 significant school course discussing the 1953 engage in.

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This distinct higher university is in rural Georgia, exactly where spending budget cuts, curtailed sex instruction, and nervousness about race and gender have students, college and mom and dad on edge. When Carter Smith, the school’s common English trainer, tries to instruct Miller’s drama about the 1692 Salem witch trials, controversy seems confident to spark. And it does, but not in the way a person may well hope.

The character of Smith provides Miller’s character John Proctor as a brave dissenter who stands firm against the hysteria and phony accusations of the trials. But some of the woman students in the class see Proctor pretty differently immediately after they master that this 30-some thing farmer experienced an affair with his wife’s teenage maid, Abigail Williams. One scholar even declares, “John Proctor is obviously the villain.”

In 2017, Belflower suggests, “I’d finished my MFA in theater at the College of Texas, and I’d moved again to my spouse and children in rural North Carolina to think about my upcoming move. That slide was when the first wave of #MeToo accusations came out, and I obsessively browse just about every short article about them. For the very first time, I experienced a vocabulary for issues that experienced occurred to me and my pals when we were more youthful. Individuals points sucked, but we felt like nothing at all could be accomplished about it, so we weren’t likely to chat about it. And now we could communicate about it.

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“When people commenced calling the #MeToo movement a witch hunt, that designed me think of Miller’s perform. My father is a farmer who raises grass-fed beef, but when I advised him the story of ‘The Crucible,’ I said, ‘John Proctor is the villain,’ and that phrase trapped with me.”

Belflower insists that she has a profound regard for Miller, that she would under no circumstances have expended so much time adapting his enjoy if she did not worth it. When she reread “The Crucible,” she marveled at the elegance of the language and the structural engineering that established the “pressure-cooker situations” that every dramatist needs. What Belflower objected to was the way Miller’s engage in is commonly taught and staged — as if John Proctor had been admirable and Abigail Williams unforgivable.

“When people train ‘The Crucible’ or present it onstage,” Belflower states, “Abigail is normally dehumanized and specified considerably far more power than teenage ladies ever experienced at that time. It is genuine that she falsely accuses harmless men and women, and it is correct that John Proctor stands up against a corrupt court docket. Still he in no way acknowledges the injury he’s performed to Abigail. I don’t know if there’s really a villain in ‘The Crucible.’ All people is too challenging. My title is extra of an intentional provocation.”

As the learners in the modern day substantial university go over Miller’s engage in, they make a bridge from their have time period of time to Miller’s 1950s and Proctor’s 1690s by quoting feminist lines from tunes by Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Lorde.

“I appreciate pop music,” suggests Belflower, “and I know how all those songs can get into your bones and shape who you are. Our tradition has a inclination to [dismiss] what teenage women love. I desired to have a participate in in which Taylor Swift was as legitimate a voice as Arthur Miller.”

John Proctor Is the Villain

Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. 202-332-3300. studiotheatre.org.