Below is a timeline of ‘The Crucible’ production process. Click on the left and right arrows to navigate through the different stages.
The Cal Poly Theatre and Dance Department welcomes Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” to the stage this week. In talking with the cast, crew and creators of this production, the journey to the final rise and fall of the curtain has been exciting and educational.
Production for the show started in September, with the production team holding meetings about the visions and ideas they had for the show.
“In approaching this production, I wanted to play with the idea of how and why narratives about the past are constructed,” director Heidi Nees said about her vision for this show.
The show was in full swing at the start of winter quarter. Once everyone was cast, rehearsals started the first Tuesday of January and will continue until March 6. Rehearsals are held from 7-10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.
The first step for the actors was developing their character. Due to the historical nature of the show, their research centered around real people and their stories. Nees instilled an importance in character analysis for her cast, so each character became a well-researched and developed persona.
The show’s dark subject matter created a somber atmosphere during rehearsals. Fortunately, the cast had built bonds with each other that made rehearsals fun. Off-stage the cast would quietly talk amongst each other, or work on homework for classes. The actors onstage would alternate between the serious dramatizations of their characters in a scene, and their happy selves when notes were being given or when they had a moment to break character.
“I like to do a lot of character analysis, and by going through that process I was really able to understand the character and every single line of every character that I interact with, or that I say,” English senior Karlee Benner, who plays Mary Warren, said.
While the actors discovered their characters, the production crew was hard at work building the other elements that create the show. Like the cast, the stage craft class started building the set right away. In an effort to bring audiences into the woodland setting, set designer Pegi Marshall helped lead the class in building a performance space using reclaimed wood and culls from a lumberjack in Santa Margarita and large pieces of trees from Cal Poly’s liberal arts and engineering studies (LAES). Marshall also designs the lighting for the show.
“This show is obviously not a very bright show, so I wanted to play with the lighting a little bit,” Marshall said. “We are working without walls, which is different for both the actors and the technical crew.”
Meanwhile the costume crew, led by theatre professor Thomas John Bernard, was creating costumes. After reading the script and talking in production meetings, Nees wanted to show the correlation between the past and the present through the costumes. To achieve this, Bernard designed looks he described as “modern fresh puritan quality” and a “sort of blended design.”
The costume construction class offered at Cal Poly was a big help in building, fixing, altering and hemming the costume pieces. There are 23 full costumes put together by two people, Bernard and costume shop manager Sarah Bryan, as well as the costume construction class.
It was around the sixth week when the actors first stepped onto the stage to rehearse. A new rehearsal space welcomed them with almost completed costumes and set. By the seventh week of rehearsals, the crew added even more technical elements as they went cue by cue to add sounds and illuminate the show. It was also at this time that the publication of the show reached its most crucial point. A publicity team led by theatre junior Tori Waner garnered interest for the show in multiple ways.
“We went to different departments and professors on campus, particularly the English and history faculty,” Waner said. “We also went to local businesses to put out posters and flyers publicizing this event.”
Beyond the physical publication, Waner’s team took to social media to post updates and keep audience members informed about the show’s progress. The team used Facebook to create events and gain support for the production.
As rehearsals wrap up and preparations for opening night begin, the cast and crew find enjoyment in each other’s company and the opportunities to learn new things about what it takes to put on a play like “The Crucible.”
The show runs Feb. 25-27 and March 3-5. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. in Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre. Tickets are available for purchase at the box offices, or online at tickets.calpoly.edu. General Admission is $20, all other tickets can be purchased for $12.