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LMU Student Actors Connect With “The Crucible” in New Ways

Strenuous rehearsals and attention to acting details helped connect playwright Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” written in 1953, to 21st century students at Loyola Marymount University. The play was performed in the Strub Theatre at LMU from Oct. 28 – Nov. 6. 

“Students’ cultural, political, and societal understandings have changed greatly since the play was originally written,” said Neno Pervan, director of the play and a lecturer in theater arts. “The influences of young actors today are very different and their artistic expression is much more modern than say 10 to 15, or even 20 years ago. Every generation should have the right to use its own [artistic] vision.”

The play is based on the Salem witch trials of the 17th century and the paranoia and hysteria after a group of young girls falsely accuse townspeople of practicing witchcraft. Pervan said he tried to stay true to Miller’s original idea and theme, adding only minor changes in style, expression and directorial decisions.

Senior Maddy Haderlein, who played Elizabeth Proctor, credits Pervan’s directing style with helping her connect with her character who is involved in a complicated relationship. She said Pervan primarily focused on movement and ways that meaning is conveyed through the body.

“Pervan taught us different ways to use physicality and voice, and gave us real-life examples to help us identify with our characters,” said Haderlein, a theatre arts major and business minor. “It was definitely strange to learn how to identify with someone who is married and has children, but it was about finding the emotions that are relatable to me and trying to fit it into another context.”    

Jesse Arrow, a senior theatre arts major, also benefited from the acting techniques taught by Pervan. Although Arrow is in his 20s, he played the character Giles Corey, a man in his 80s. Arrow said rehearsals were strenuous and incredibly frustrating at times because he had to play the character’s age through movement and mannerisms rather than just his voice. 

“Pervan helped me develop the character by starting me off with the physical nature of the character,” Arrow said. “I learned that I could get into the physical body of my character by pretending that everything in my body hurt.”
Pervan recommended “The Crucible” because of the lesson it teaches about the effects fear and hysteria can have in a community. “[The Crucible] shows what happens when madness takes over reason and when someone decides to be both judge and jury,” Pervan said. “Miller wrote it as a warning and as a commentary on many occasions that have happened throughout American history.”

Posted Nov. 8, 2010