The Crucible

crucible-logo-300x287Arthur Miller’s classic, The Crucible, is a dramatized and partially fictionalized play based upon the Salem Witch Trials during 1692/93.  When taken at its simplest form, the plot centers on a love triangle between John Proctor (Eric Leslie) his wife Elizabeth (Jennifer Sinatra) and their young and quite attractive former servant girl Abigail Williams (Elizabeth Bennett). When his wife suffered from a period of sickness, he committed adultery with Abigail. John generally views this as an unfortunate indiscretion not to be repeated, but Abby feels as though a much deeper relationship has developed between them. She plots to get Elizabeth out of the way and marry John.

Abby’s scheme to secure John as her husband takes advantage of the growing fear of witches. She convinces the colony’s clergy that she and other young girls have seen the older village women commit witchcraft and cavort with the devil. The young girls were caught dancing in the moonlight and claimed they were possessed as a diversion from their activity. Abby frames Elizabeth with a doll and accuses Elizabeth of using the doll to hurt her. This sets up Elizabeth to be hanged, so John Proctor would then be available to marry Abby.

(left to right) Jennifer Sinatra, Eric Leslie and Elizabeth Bennett
(left to right) Jennifer Sinatra, Eric Leslie and Elizabeth Bennett

In the English system of justice in the late 1600s, both the courts and church together established the standards of justice and prosecution. The easiest way for the court to gain a conviction and an execution for charges of witchcraft was a confession.  As it turns out, in reality, none of the accused Salem witches who confessed were convicted or executed. However, all of the women and men who refused to confess to consorting with the devil were found guilty and executed.

As the suspected witches watched the other’s trials progress, they become faced with a moral choice; confess to witchcraft and most likely you would be spared from the gallows. Then you would only answer to God upon your death and have your soul damned to hell. Miller’s play asks us think about how we would handle ourselves if we were to find ourselves in this situation, would we lie to save ourselves and our family?

(left to right) Sophia Englesberg, Lindy Spear, Isabella Englesberg, Elizabeth Bennett, Martha McElligott, Amanda DeConciliis-Weber, Heather Dressel, Moriah Hathaway
(left to right) Sophia Englesberg, Lindy Spear, Isabella Englesberg, Elizabeth Bennett, Martha McElligott, Amanda DeConciliis-Weber, Heather Dressel, Moriah Hathaway

While The Crucible appears to be totally about the Salem Witch Trials, Miller wrote the play in 1952 as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the rallying cry of the era was “Are you now or were you ever a member of the Communist Party?” How different is that from with the question that haunts The Crucible: “Did you see Elizabeth Proctor or Francis Nurse with the Devil?”

The intimacy of the Little Lake Theatre should be just perfect for this type of soul searching drama. However, as seems often the case at Little Lake, actors and directors fail to take advantage of the intimate setting to create a nuanced and sublime performance, instead resorting to shouting to accentuate the drama. By the end of the second act, Director Jena Oberg’s over the top delivery style becomes tiring. This is regretful just as the simple love triangle story transitions to the more complex morality play that requires our full attention.

(left to right) Joshua Antoon, Eric Leslie, Warren Ashburn, and Jeff Johnson
(left to right) Joshua Antoon, Eric Leslie, Warren Ashburn, and Jeff Johnson

That is not to say that this production doesn’t have its moments. Standout performances are delivered by Elizabeth Bennett for her portrayal of Abigail, Jennifer Sinatra as Elizabeth Proctor and Ina Block as the elder Rebecca Nurse. John Reilly is the perfect representation of the self-perceived totally infallible and yet totally evil Judge Hathorne.

The resurrection of witch hunts seems to be common practice in today’s political environment.  The Crucible takes us back in time to America’s original witch hunt, the questions raised then are just as relevant today.

Arthur Miller’s classic, The Crucible, at Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive, Canonsburg, PA 15317. Performances Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, November 2-4, 9-11 & 16-18 with all performances at 8pm.

For tickets visit https://www.showclix.com/event/the-crucible

Photos by James Orr

Little Lake Prepares for a Paramount 69th Season!

little-lake-logoIn this year’s 69th season, Little Lake Theatre Company is ready to delight audiences with incredible local talent. Since its founding in the spring of 1949 by Edith Disney and her son Will, Little Lake has been a theatrical gem to the many communities that surround Pittsburgh.  Once just an old barn on the side of a lake in Washington County, Little Lake transformed into the area’s first theatre-in-the-round, and has since featured more than 1,700 local actors and 1,200 productions on the local stage.

From exploring the days before Peter Pan and his lost boys captured the hearts of many to asking the audience a popular board game’s question of “Who did it?”- this season of musicals, comedies, dramas, children’s theater and more will not disappoint.

For more information about Little Lake’s 69th season and the shows listed below, visit www.littlelake.org.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHERPeter and the Starcatcher

April 27 through 29 at 8 p.m.

April 30 at 2 p.m.

May 4 through 6 at 8 p.m.

May 7 at 2 p.m.

May 11 through 13 at 8 p.m.

In Peter and the Starcatcher, audiences will embark on the adventure of a lifetime.  The play is based on the 2006 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and was adapted for the stage by Rick Elice.  The prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, this play will delight audiences by providing a backstory to the beloved character of Peter Pan.

“Little Lake is thrilled to be doing Peter and the Starcatcher as our 69th season opener,” says Jena Oberg, Artistic Director at Little Lake and the show’s director.  Musical direction will be provided by Holly Jones. “We selected Peter and the Starcatcher for its humor, creativity, emphasis on storytelling, and its message that anyone can be a hero.”

This show, perfect for all ages, is sure to provide a great night out for the whole family.  The cast will transform themselves and the space to create a thrilling adventure.  Everyday items will become pirate ships, crocodiles, tropical jungles, and more, and Little Lake provides the perfect playground as the theater-in-the-round setting allows audiences to feel as if they are a part of the worlds that are being created around them.  Aerial silks, ladders, ropes, shadows, lighting, and many more special effects are sure to dazzle anyone taking part in this adventure.

PhiladelphaStoryTHE PHILADELPHIA STORY

May 18 through 20 at 8 p.m.

May 25 through 27 at 8 p.m.

May 28 at 2 p.m.

June 1 through 3 at 8 p.m.

The Philadelpha Story is a beloved classic that is a favorite among Little Lake audiences and has been performed and well-received several times at the local theater.  The 1939 American comic play by Philip Barry tells the story of Tracy Lord, Philadelphia’s most eligible socialite, as she finds herself facing complications prior to her wedding in being attracted to multiple men- to the dismay of her fiancé.

Directed by Lora Oxenreiter, this play is perfect for ages 10 and up and will leave audiences asking, “who will Tracy choose?” in this sparkling comedy.

PROOFProof

June 8 through 10 at 8 p.m.

June 15 through 17 at 8 p.m.

June 18 at 2 p.m.

June 22 through 24 at 8 p.m.

In a more mature setting, David Auburn’s play Proof will come to life on the Little Lake stage in June.  Best for ages 15 and up, as the show contains adult language, this play tells the story of Catherine, the daughter of Robert who is a recently deceased mathematical genius in his 50s and a professor at the University of Chicago, as she struggles with mathematical genius and mental illness.  When game changing proof is discovered, Catherine must face the biggest problem of all: how much of her father’s genius-or madness- has she inherited?

The play will be directed by Art DeConciliis and was selected because “it is an incredibly well-written view of genius,” says Oberg.  “In this 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, the characters and relationships are beautifully complex.”

RAPUNZEL (A World Premiere)

June 14 through July 1 – Wednesdays at 11 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

When a bit of fairy tale magic backfires, Rapunzel tumbles into an adventure that includes a preposterous Count, an impossibly tall tower and discovery of extraordinary courage in this world premiere production.

This brand-new adaption of the popular fairy tale was written by Little Lake’s former artistic director, Sunny Disney Fitchett, who is now a children’s theater playwright in the state of California.  “Little Lake is beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to produce the world premiere of this play,” says Oberg.  “It is a fun, new twist on the classic story, where Rapunzel uses her smarts and courage to save herself from the tower.”

The show will be directed by Mary Meyer and is part of Little Lake’s Summer Looking Glass Theatre season for Young Audiences.  Anyone ages 3 and up will be sure to fall in love with this version of the timeless tale.

OneManTwoGuvnorsONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS

June 29 through July 1 at 8 p.m.

July 6 through 8 at 8 p.m.

July 9 at 2 p.m.

July 13 through 15 at 8 p.m.

 

This hilarious farce of mistaken identity tells the story of the bumbling, but charming character Francis as he finds himself simultaneously employed by two bosses.  This play by Richard Bean is an English adaption of Il servitor di due padroni– a 1743 commedia dell’arte style play by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni- and featured the popular late night host James Corden during its Broadway run.

Under the direction of TJ Fineno, this show is best for audience members ages 15 and up.  Fineno will be returning to Little Lake for a month’s time from Texas to direct this crazy comedy.  “TJ is particularly skilled in farce, and so this play was a perfect fit for him,” says Oberg.  “Also, audiences at Little Lake love farces- and this one will feature live music and high energy fun!”

FANTASTIC MR. FOX

July 5 through 22- Wednesdays at 11 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is an imaginative and creative adaption of the Roald Dahl classic.  Audiences follow Mr. Fox as he cleverly outwits three smelly, horrid farmers to save his family and friends in this “Dahl”icious play.

The show will be directed by John Michnya and plans to feature puppets in addition to scenic elements based on the original illustrations and elaborate costuming that will create the world of Dahl’s story.  Part of Little Lake’s Summer Looking Glass Theater season for Young Audiences, this show is perfect for ages 3 and up, and will feature the talent of young actors from the surrounding area.

WONDER OF THE WORLDWonderoftheWorld

July 20 through 22 at 8 p.m.

July 27 through 29 at 8 p.m.

July 30 at 2 p.m.

August 3 through 5 at 8 p.m.

On a hilarious journey of self-discovery, Cass teams up with some unlikely sidekicks in what become a wild ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel full of laughs in the play Wonder of the World.  This play, written by American playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, premiered at the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in 2000 and then ran Off-Broadway in 2001.

Little Lake’s production will be directed by Jena Oberg and is best suited for ages 15 and up, as the show contains adult language.  “This play has always been one of my favorites,” says Oberg.  “It is hilariously funny and absurdly uplifting.  I really think our audiences are doing to love this one and leave the theater feeling just a little bit more optimistic about the future.”

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE!, JR.

July 26 through August 12- Wednesdays at 11 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Let’s get ready to rock! Based on the popular, award-winning 1970s cartoons, Schoolhouse Rock Live!, Jr. is a fast past musical that teaches lessons with clever, catchy tunes and is a one-hour version of the full musical. Follow new teacher Tom as he learns how to win over his students with imagination and music.

The show will be directed by James Critchfield, with musical direction by Holly Jones.  The musical is part of Little Lake’s Summer Looking Glass Theatre season for Young Audiences- perfect for ages 3 and up- and is full of songs that many adults may remember from their childhood.

“We think it’s a perfect back-to-school treat for our young audiences, as cast members sing and dance to musical numbers about basic math, language, and history concepts,” says Oberg.  The cast for this show will all be under the age of 18, showcasing the amazing talent of the young actors that grace the Little Lake stage.

TheAudienceTHE AUDIENCE

August 10 through 12 at 8 p.m.

August 17 through 19 at 8 p.m.

August 20 at 2 p.m.

August 24 through 26 at 8 p.m.

Glimpse into the secret weekly audiences between Queen Elizabeth II and her twelve Prime Ministers during some of England’s most defining moments in Little Lake’s production of The Audience.

Directed by Ponny Conomos Jahn, this show is best for ages 13 and up and is a fascinating look at the modern monarchy and relationship between the Queen and her Prime Ministers.  The play, written by British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan, opened on Broadway in 2015 and featured Dame Helen Mirren.

Audiences will have the opportunity to be a fly on the wall for conversations regarding some of the major events in history.  Fans of the popular television show “The Crown” are especially sure to love this production, as its plot feeds into the current fascination with the Royal Family.

A MASTERPIECE OF COMIC…TIMINGMasterpieceofComicTiming

(An Area Premiere)

August 31 through September 2 at 8 p.m.

September 7 through 9 at 8 p.m.

September 10 at 2 p.m.

September 14 through 16 at 8 p.m.

As a wiz-kid author and theatre producer endeavor to write the next comic masterpiece, the line between comedy and drama is found to be much narrower- and sillier- than you’d think!

This newly published play by Robert Caisley will be a regional premiere at Little Lake and was suggested to the artistic staff by a patron who saw a production of the show at a theater in the state of California.  “Once we read it, we know it was perfect for Little Lake,” says Oberg.  As an added bonus, communication with the playwright will last throughout the production- giving Little Lake a true view into the artist’s creative mind and desires for his piece.  “It’s truly exciting to have Robert Caisley on board as a resource when working on his very show,” says Oberg.

A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing will be directed by James Critchfield and is perfect for ages 15 and up.

Middletown

MIDDLETOWN

September 21 through 23 at 8 p.m.

September 28 through 30 at 8 p.m.

October 5 through 7 at 8 p.m.

 

A deeply moving and funny play, Middletown explores the universe of a small American town.  As a friendship develops between longtime resident John Dodge and new arrival to the town Mary Swanson, the lives of the residents of Middletown intersect in a journey that takes them from the local library to outer space and all points between.

The Off-Brodway play written by Will Eno has been hailed as “a testament to the power of words and wordplay” by the Chicago Sun Times.  “The worlds Eno creates are shaped by the cadence, timing and positioning of words to tell stories about the everyday.  In his absurdist, abstract drama, Eno offers up an old-fashioned version of small-town life that is familiar, but with a title to the surreal.”

Little Lake’s production will be directed by Ponny Conomos Jahn and is best for ages 13 and up.  “This play is really an artistic piece,” says Oberg.  “It is poetic in the way it is written and is really a cross-section of the complexities, joys, and mysteries of modern life.”

JUNE B. JONES, THE MUSICAL

September 30 at 2 p.m. October 1, 7, 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28 at 2 p.m.

First-grade couldn’t be more exciting with a new pair of glasses, a kickball tournament, a “top-secret personal beeswax journal,” and much more!  Best for ages 5 and up and part of Little Lake’s Fall Family Matinee series, June B. Jones, The Musical is based on one of the best loved book series of all time.

“We are delighted to be bringing this fun and energetic musical to our stage,” says Oberg.  “It celebrated being unique and discovering the things that makes each kid special.”

This show will be directed by Sara Barbisch, with musical direction by Holly Jones.

CLUE: THE MUSICALClue

October 12 through 14 at 8 p.m.

October 19 through 21 at 8 p.m.

October 26 through 28 at 8 p.m.

The question is… “Who did it?”  Clue- the popular board game- will spring to life in this uproariously funny and interactive musical.  Each night, the audience will actually play the game and the show will change based on the different cards drawn by the night’s participants.  The actors that will bring this show to life will learn 120 possible variations of the script to provide a completely unique experience each show.  The show features all of the timeless board game characters, and the Little Lake stage will be painted to look like the game board, as poster-sized game cards are created.

With a book by Peter DePietro, music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker and Vinnie Martucci, and lyrics by Tom Chiodo, this show originally opened Off-Broadway at the Players Theater on December 3, 1997.

Little Lake’s production will be directed by Art DeConciliis, with musical direction by Laura Daniels and is ideal for ages 15 and up.

CrucibleTHE CRUCIBLE

November 2 through 4 at 8 p.m.

November 9 through 11 at 8 p.m.

November 16 through 18 at 8 p.m.

 

 

Salem, Massachusetts is ablaze with accusations of witchcraft in this exciting drama, still astoundingly relevant today.  A 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller, The Crucible is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Harshly reviewed at the time of its premiere due to its controversial nature, the play won the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play, and a year later a new production paved the way for the classic that is regarded as a central work in the canon of American drama today.

The Crucible will be directed by Jena Oberg, is appropriate for ages 13 and up, and will feature two performances for school groups during its run at Little Lake.  “The Crucible seemed like a timely parable for the struggles contemporary society is facing,” says Oberg.  “Our production will use percussion and dancing to create the mood and play transitions as performed by the actors playing Tituba and other girls.”

YES VIRGINIA!

November 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 2 p.m.

This feel-good, family musical is inspired by one of the most famous newspaper editorials of all time: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

With music by Wesley Whatley, lyrics by William Schermerhorn, and a book adapted by William Schermerhorn from the animated special and storybook by Chris Plehal, Yes Virginia! perfectly captures the holiday spirit and is a great show for the whole family to attend right before the bustling, beautiful Christmas season begins.

The show will be directed by Rick Campbell, with musical direction by Holly Jones.  Little Lake will also provide a letter writing station at each performance, giving young ones the opportunity to write their own letters and mail them out to Santa Claus before the big day.

A TUNA CHRISTMASTunaChristmas

November 30 through December 2 at 8 p.m.

December 7 through 9 at 8 p.m.

December 14 through 16 at 8 p.m.

Celebrate Christmas with the good folks of Tuna, Texas in this hootin’, hollerin’, laugh-out-loud, smash hit comedy.  Wrapping up Little Lake’s 69th season, this show will be a restaged version of Sunny Disney Fitchett’s and Art DeConciliis’ previously performed production.

The show will feature Kevin Bass and Art DeConciliis, as they play all the characters of Tuna, Texas!  “This is the most requested play at Little Lake of all time!” exclaims Oberg.  “We are delighted to be bringing it back again this season.  It has become a favorite holiday tradition.”

Other Season Offerings:

SEVEN WEEKS OF SUMMER FUN!

In addition to a jam-packed season of theatrical fun, Little Lake will offer seven weeks of summer camps for kids this year including an Improv Camp, Be A Star Camp, Acting Camp (two sessions), Behind the Scenes Camp, Musical Theater Camp (two sessions), and Teen Camp.  These great offerings will help kids hone their skills and take their acting to the next level.  For more information or to sign up, visit www.littlelake.org.

ADULT THEATRE CLASSES AT LITTLE LAKE

Adults can have some extra fun, too!  Two new classes, Improv for Adults and I Can Do That Too!, will be offered in the evenings for adults, ages 18 and up.  Laugh, play, build your skills, and take your acting to the next level. For more information or to enroll, visit www.littlelake.org.