The Salem Witch Trials serves as one of the most significant and historical events in the history of female subordination, and fear of the unknown. The fear of darkness comes to the audience through the life of “Tituba.” Personifying darkness-a womanly representation of dark, feminine power, and the ability to transcend the ignorance of man. In both Acts I and IV, she is present–symbolizing the beginning, and the end, in our exploration of darkness.
In the Fall 2015 production of The Crucible (by Arthur Miller), within the AUC Department of Theater (directed by Frank Bradley, Scene & Lighting by Stencil Campbell, Costume by Jeanne Arnold, and Technical Direction by Mohamed Talaat), darkness was placed on trial. Those who connected to it could “confess,” or be part of the “gifted,” who could see darkness’ connection to the souls of the silent. And the journey continues throughout the play, in the dance with darkness.
Opening into the world of Salem, the first night of the production centers on the removal of the audience’s connection to darkness’ humanity, at the beginning. Her initial entrance signifies an inquiring Spirit. One who is cautious, observant, and in tuned with the danger of silence–as it is sure to become a screeching noise, returning to her in the second appearance.
It is through the second entry where the audience of Malak Gabr Theater witnesses how darkness is blamed. Unlike Abigail, Tituba is unable to blame another person for her alleged “compact with the Devil.” She personifies the very source of darkness’ lair. Therefore, she must in turn, present herself as having supreme knowledge of its being–a viable tool, whose “confession,” will break the curse that plagues Salem.
On opening night, the audience of Malak Gabr Theater found laughter in places of sorrow. But by the end of Act I, they had awaken from their comedic fairytale. With her initial subservient gesture, and funny accent, “Tituba, “was a familiar caricature to be mocked (by members of that night’s audience) when she was accused (and betrayed) by Abigail; and questioned by Reverend Hale. Yet, all of that changed once mistreatment of her, by Mr. Parris reached a boiling point. Not only did it become an opportunity for Tituba to showcase her humanity and femininity, but it also gives a small glimpse of Abigail’s secret admiration of Tituba and her power. Her wanting “to open” herself is none other than recognition of Tituba’s genius in using darkness as a healer to acquire some authority in Salem.
Throughout her remaining presence in the play, Abigail becomes skilled in hiding in darkness to give off the illusion of power. Mary Warren, Betty, Mercy Lewis, and Susanna Walcott join her in “taking over” the power of darkness in Salem. Their “recognition” and perceived interpretation of the spiritual world gives them advantage over authority (the Church and Court); due to that governance’s ignorance, and spiritual limitations in Earth’s realities.
Stifled and secretly rendered in doubt of their own knowledge (and capability), they are left to believe truth in the lies. Act III of the performance highlighted that. As the women characters (with the exception of Mary Warren) play in violent convulsions, while performing the role that is expected of them; it is without a doubt that another play (another story) is being written. Yet, it cannot be seen by the dominant authority figures. An unspeakable secret between the audience and the characters who have confessed, or have been condemned. Magical realism is embedded throughout the play; and especially in selected parts from Acts I, II, and IV. The lighting, set design, costume design ,and performance of the cast and crew illuminated the magic; not only within Malak Gabr Theater, but throughout the New Cairo campus of the University–as it too, serves as a magical stage for the many performers who enter her gardens.
Transforming from a trial to seeking truth in darkness. Such has come to serve as a valuable lesson for the audience members, who came each night to grapple with their own hatred, disdain, and dilemma, in there possibly. . .possibly, being another, and more positive connection to darkness. This idea not only comes through Tituba, but is validated by the characters of Elizabeth Proctor, and Sarah Good in Act IV. Yet, that is for another piece.
One of the most endearing aspects of the production of “The Crucible,” relates to the harmony of the cast, director, crew, and characters at play. For this Fall 2015 production in Malak Gabr, a new magic has been established–in the realm of theater. Such energy was felt every night by the observers. Part of that beauty came through the Spirit of unknowing). For it was within every character where the question of darkness, and their purpose in it, became a pondering composer; grappling to complete a masterpiece. . .
. . .Even within Judge Danforth. . .Abigail. . .John. . .Elizabeth. . .Mary Warren. . .Hathorne. . .Martha Corey. . .Giles. . .Hopkins. . .Reverend Hale. . .Mr. Parris. . .Betty. . .Sarah Good. . .Henrick. . .Francis Nurse. . .Ruth Putnam. . .Cheever. . .Susanna Walcott. . .Mercy Lewis. . . . . . . . . . . .even within, Tituba!
. . .