Tag Archives: Arthur Miller

Once upon a witch hunt

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller is widely read by high school students, and the most fortunate among them have the opportunity to bring the tale to life on stage.

The Marcos de Niza Theatre production (directed by Patrick McChesney) opened Wed, Nov. 16, at the MdN Auditorium in Tempe — and runs through Sat., Nov. 19. 

 Program notes describe “The Crucible” as  “a dark drama about a terrible period in American history… the Salem witch trials” — and offer a summary of the story that goes something like this:

A small group of Puritan teenage girls in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts are caught dancing and conjuring love potions to catch young men. The girls invent stories about Satan invading their bodies, forcing them to take part in certain rites.

The play’s main characters include a young farmer named John Proctor and his wife. Also a young servant girl whose infatuation with the farmer leads her to accuse the wife of witchcraft.

Greedy preachers and landowners complicate the situation and hysteria soon spreads as “good people of pious nature and responsible temper begin condemning other good people to the gallows.”

Proctor brings the servant girl to court, hoping she’ll admit her lie so his wife will be saved. Instead, “the monstrous course of bigotry and deceit turns all accusations to him and ultimately sentences him to death.” 

The program notes that Miller wrote “The Crucible” as a social commentary on McCarthy-era “witch hunts” against so-called communists during the 1950s. It’s a profound and perpetually popular work because, sadly, we seem always to divide ourselves into the hunters and the hunted.

“The Crucible” received the 1953 Tony Award for best play, and feels no less relavant today — especially in the hands of our youth. They know better than most just how rapidly rumors spread, and can help us all embrace our own power to prevent and stop them.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to watch the school’s YouTube promo for “The Crucuble.” Upcoming events at Marcos de Niza include a fall dance show (Dec. 2), an orchestra concert (Feb. 22), a spring musical (“All Shook Up” March 7-10), a band pops concert (May 9) and more. Check their website for details.

Coming up: Thespian tales, More fun with “I-Spy” photos, The fine art of recycling, School shows & budget woes


Tough choices

I’ve faced some tough choices lately…

What to pack for a theater trip to San Diego. Whether to try the pepperoni pizza or the rosemary chicken during my first trip to the new cafeteria at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

These are choices plenty of folks never have the luxury of facing, and I feel grateful for them. Last weekend’s tough choices involved Valley theater productions.

Lizabeth and I hoped to get to “No Way to Treat a Lady” at Phoenix Theatre (we heard the leads were phenomenal), “Unstoppable Me!” performed by Cookie Company at Scottsdale’s Greasepaint Youtheatre (we love the casting) and “THIS” — being performed by Actors Theatre at the Herberger Theater Center.

Artwork by Anthony Ulinski

A friend we met for coffee at “Urban Beans” in midtown Phoenix no doubt meant to be helpful when reminding us that “Devil Boys from Beyond” is also on tap these days, but the choice there was a bit easier to make.

“Watching naked men or supporting women playwrights?,” I mused. “THIS,” written by Melissa James Gibson, won out — and Lizabeth ended up going the next day while I took Jennifer, my 19-year-old, to lunch at Chili’s near ASU.

Seems each time I’m there I remind my children that Chili’s was a favorite haunt when I was pregnant. “So,” asked Jennifer, “does this mean I will be getting a new baby brother or sister?” Another not so tough choice. I have a cat.

Lizabeth was quite fond of “THIS” and I hope to share some of her thoughts on the show in a future post. But for now I find myself pondering the weekend ahead, which offers another dizzying array of options in the arts and culture department.

There’s a film called “nomadak tx” playing at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix on Sat, Feb 5, at 2:30pm — which profiles musicians who play an instrument built for two, only to discover it’s a meeting point between both two beings and two cultures.

There’s “The Crucible” — directed by Childsplay’s Debra K. Stevens — being performed Feb 3-5 at Mesa Community College’s Theatre Outback. Every student reads “The Crucible” in school, making this a fun and educational choice.

Lizabeth worked on “The Crucible” during a weeklong Childsplay workshop with Stevens and playwright Dwayne Hartford, which truly enriched her perspective on the Arthur Miller play she was already very familiar with and fond of. 

And yes — it is time already to begin making tough choices about spring break and summer camps. Hence the RAK Camp Fair coming up later this month. If you wait too long to choose, the choice will be made for you as the best camps fill up early on.

I should mention that we faced another tough choice last weekend during our first exploration of “Bards Books” — located next to our latest coffee grind find. Whether to buy all the treasures we found on the spot or wait until we could bring in some no longer needed titles for trade. We chose immediate gratification.

Our latest tough choice was simply whether to get flu shots in the left or right arm. Thank goodness we got that over with, because we’ve got bigger and better choices to make this weekend. And we’re grateful for each and every one.

— Lynn

Note: It’s an especially busy time for theater companies presenting shows for youth, all of whom need your support to continue their good works. Please visit the RAK calendar online to see your many choices of family-friendly performance art in the Valley this month.

Coming up: SCC theatre students hit the road, Pondering 5oo posts

Poetry for all ages

"The Letter P" by Peter Blake

One of my favorite poems was written by my daughter, Lizabeth, after she received a poetry assignment in an English class.

She’s been writing poetry for pleasure almost since she was old enough to write — but the suggestion that she produce poetry on demand wasn’t well received.

The resulting poem, on writing for another rather than oneself, was biting but brilliant.

I’m guessing she never turned it in — fearing her teacher wouldn’t understand her dispassion for poetry prompts. She read it to me just once, and I haven’t seen it since. I certainly hope it still exists somewhere because I found it truly breathtaking. I was equally prolific in writing poetry as a teen, but not nearly as talented.

So my interest was piqued when I learned of poetry writing courses offered by the Piper Writers Studio at the ASU Virgina G. Piper Center for Creative Writing in Tempe. It just so happens there’s an eight week session starting Sept 27. It meets at the Piper Writers House on the Tempe ASU campus.

The poetry session, “Eight Poems in Eight Weeks” with instructor Leah Soderberg, runs Sept 27 to Nov 15 with classes on Monday nights from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Overachievers can make dinner, write their little hearts out and still be home for storytime. The rest of us will simply relish being missed one night each week.

The studio also offers online sessions and one-day classes — including “Coloring [Inside] the Lines: The Practice of Poetry” with instructor Elizabeth A. Hiscox (online starting in October) and “The Conjugation of Breath” with instructor Jessica Burnquist (Oct 1).

The University of Arizona has a Poetry Center, which is currently celebrating its 50th year. Center programming includes readings, lectures, classes, workshops, discussions, book club meetings, art exhibitions and more.

Upcoming offerings include a library exhibition honoring the center’s founder, Ruth Stephan, and an art exhibition honoring the center’s first director, LaVerne Harrell Clark (both opening Sept 27). On Oct 4 they’ll present “Shop Talk: The Poetry of Gary Snyder.” The center describes Snyder as “a writer, Buddhist, and bioregionalist” whose interests include the environment and eastern philosophy.

For the 4- to 10-year old set, they offer the “Poetry Joeys” program. “Poetry Joeys” features teaching artists inspiring love of language through creative movement, reading and writing poetry. The next event takes place this Saturday, Sept 25, from 10am-11am at the U of A Poetry Center in Tucson.

I adored taking my children to similar events when they were younger not just because they were fun, but because they always inspired me to more creative uses of language and the arts with my children at home.

High school teachers eager to encourage poetry appreciation can register to participate in an annual program called “Poetry Out Loud,” a free national program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

The program is administered in Arizona by the Arizona Commission on the Arts in collaboration with two regional partners — the ASU Young Writers Program and the U of A Poetry Center.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts notes that the program “encourages youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance, which help students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary heritage.”

Schools interested in participating must register with the Arizona Commission on the Arts by Oct 15. Participating teachers receive free multimedia curriculm materials including a poetry anthology, audio guide, teachers’ guide, posters and more.

Students who win recitation contests at participating schools can compete to advance to regional, state and national levels. In 2010, Poetry Out Loud awarded more than $100,000 in prizes to students and schools at the state and national levels, according to the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Plenty of other poetry resources exist throughout the Valley and state, so keep an eye out for poetry-related events and opportunities offered by your local museums, libraries, book stores, performing arts venues and youth organizations.

Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, for example, offers a 7pm “First Friday Poetry Night” each month, which features “a local or national poet reading original work (published or not) followed by open reading.”

Remember too that fostering an early love of poetry can be as simple as reading daily with your child, including books of poetry among your family’s reading collection, and having paper and pencil (or crayons) at the ready when your child feels inspired to write.


Note: Thanks to my hubby James for sharing a link to “The Paris Review” — which has an exceptional ‘interview’ section currently featuring “Five Playwrights on the Art of Theater.” Featured playwrights include Arthur Miller, Eugene Ionesco, August Wilson, Lillian Hellman and Harold Pinter. It’s a “must read” for writers and theater folk.

Coming up: A film every parent should see, My “Lucky Stiff” riff, Weekend events featuring arts fundraisers