LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid High School will delve into the dark world of the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s with their fall play, "The Crucible."
The classic drama, written by Arthur Miller, deals with a group of young girls who start accusing people around Salem of committing witchcraft. A number of the accused are hanged or otherwise put to death.
The play was first produced in 1953, and it used the Salem witch trials as an allegory for U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee's hunt for communists in America at the time.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
English teacher Brenden Gotham is directing the show this year, and he said he looked for a difficult play for the actors he knew would be trying out this fall.
"I wanted to really challenge this year's group, and I knew they were up to it," Gotham said.
He taught the show to some of his classes this year and last, so some of the juniors and seniors were familiar with it.
Gotham cast senior Lucky Cerruti in the lead role of John Proctor, who had an affair with the girl who started the accusations, Abigail Williams, when she was working as a maid in his house but has since ended it. He first has to defend his wife against accusations of witchcraft, then himself.
"It's pretty brutal, but it's really powerful," Cerruti said of the play.
He wasn't familiar with the play when he auditioned for it, and Gotham told him not to watch the 1996 film with Daniel Day-Lewis in his role so he wouldn't try to copy him. Cerruti obeyed his director at first, but toward the end of the rehearsal process - once he developed the character on his own - he couldn't resist watching the movie (and he hasn't told Gotham he did yet).
Proctor speaks a ton in the four-act play, so Cerruti had to spend a lot of time studying his lines, alone and with other actors, too.
Cerruti said he also had to spend time working on his dynamics as he was creating his version of John Proctor.
Senior Lorraine Draper plays Proctor's wife, Elizabeth. Draper said the rehearsal process has been very challenging, and she struggled at first in learning her lines.
"It's been a lot of fun," Draper said. "It's been a lot of hard work, but it's really coming along, and it's going to be great."
She said she wasn't familiar with the show before auditioning, but she did some research online to learn more about it.
"The character I play is really hard," Draper said.
Gotham said one of the most difficult things with this year's rehearsal schedule was that several of his actors were on the boys' soccer team, which went farther in the playoffs than they expected to. Their season didn't end until Saturday, when the team lost in the Class C state quarterfinals, which means some of the boys had to miss more rehearsals than expected.
"It's great that the kids are involved in so many things, and it's great that they're winning," Gotham told the Enterprise the night before the final game. "So we've been working around it."
Nonetheless, Gotham said he's been proud of the students for doing a good job in grasping the language and themes of the play.
"I've been really happy with the progress they've made," Gotham said.
The costumes are rented this year, and the stark white and earth colors the characters wear are reflective of the Puritan ethic of colonial Massachusetts, where excess and frivolousness were not allowed. The sparsely set stage is appropriately Puritan as well, with a stylized cross made of boards at the center.
The play will run tonight and Friday at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium.