Varsity Theatre performs ‘The Crucible’, advances to Bi-District


Cate Emma Warren

Arguing with Judge Danforth, or junior Stone Porter, Abigail Williams, or junior Lauren Grammer, defends herself while seniors Marlee Parrish and Mattie Jacobs, sophomores Riley Quinonez and Rachel Jackson, and juniors Mikayla Sexton, Cooper Smith, Marissa Denman watch. “’The Crucible’ is going pretty good,” Denman said. “We are excited to be going to bi-district. We have rehearsal Wednesday, and on Thursday we will compete. We’ve all worked really hard on the show. My character, Hawthorne, is one of the judges. She is also not originally a lady, so I had to dabble into some character development there.”

The UIL Theatre team competed against six other shows Friday, March 18. “The Crucible” cast and crew are set to compete against five other schools Thursday, March 24.  The Bi-District competition will occur at Ray Braswell High School. 

“Competing is a two day process,” junior actress Marissa Denman said. “The actual competition is on the second day, but the first day is rehearsal. We work cues and go through the show, but we are not really running the full thing. For competition day, we go to the place we are competing and we have an assigned room that we stay in. We stay there or watch the other shows until it is our turn to go. (When we compete) we set up, start the show, perform and strike.”

After, the team enters a room, where a judge will critique them for 10 minutes.

“After that, we can wait in our room, or watch the remaining shows until awards,” Denman said. “At awards, they announce the shows that advance and the alternate show. They also announce awards for specific actors and techs who have gone above and beyond.”

In position for the final scene of the show, junior Madyson Heaton, senior Jessie Kuhn, junior Marissa Denman, sophomore Kwasi Boamah, sophomore Pierce Polomsky and junior Stone Porter discuss the document with John Proctor’s confession. Porter has been in Varsity Theater since his freshman year. He also played Pumba in the department’s fall production of “The Lion King Jr.” “Judge Danforth is a corrupt judge,” Porter said. “This guy is not a good guy. All he cares about is how he looks and the state of Massachusetts. He doesn’t care if the girls are lying or not. They’re still going to be hung because it makes him look good.” (Cate Emma Warren)

The Crucible” is typically set in 1690s Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials. The varsity team has set the show in a dystopian setting, with futuristic ideas of government corruption, and the costumes have taken many concepts from the 1950s.

Senior Marlee Parrish, who works as an actress and as a student director for the show, has helped the concept come to life.

“I think our unique interpretation of the show is bringing more entertainment,” Parrish said. “It’s also bringing a deeper message than what people originally thought when reading the script in class. I think bringing in the dystopian concept has made it a more dramatic interpretation of what is going on in real life. It may seem like a stretch, but if you look at society in any of the other governments, this is basically what they are going through, too.”

Students in English III classes have read “The Crucible” this past quarter. In order to help students get a full understanding of the script, Principal Dr. John Burdett set up a schedule for the cast and crew to perform. Theatre held one performance each class period on March 14-15. 

Grabbing Betty Parris’, sophomore Rachel Jackson’s, face, Abigail Williams, played by junior Lauren Grammer, stands over the girl. This is Jackson’s first UIL One Act Play with the department. “Betty is the person who will go to extreme lengths to avoid blame,” Jackson said. “Anyone can relate to her because in a situation where we’ve done something wrong, we want to avoid the consequences of our actions.” (Cate Emma Warren)

“I think we are at a solid point in the show,” junior technician Gabe Torres said. “Doing tech, there have naturally been a couple of bumps in the road. However, all of us techs have started communicating better in the booth and backstage. I think the performances we did for the English III classes really helped us get in a lot of practice, and provided us with the groundwork with how the show works and runs.”

The cast and crew won a total of five individual awards, which was the most of any company in the competition. Actors Pierce Polomsky, Lauren Grammer and Cooper Smith won the All-Star Cast award. Senior Karolina Rubio-Terrazas won Honorable Mention All-Star Cast. Senior Charlie Yohannan won the All-Star Crew award.

“Last year was a big step for myself as an actor,” junior actor Cooper Smith said. “Getting to participate in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was such a fun experience, and I think I can say for everyone we had lots of fun getting to do that show. I got to experience UIL truly for the first time last year because COVID-19 ruined it my freshman year. That show taught me a lot as an actor, and every show I do I feel like I add a new ability as an actor. I can’t wait to see what else Prosper Theatre can do.”

Surrounded around Betty Parris, played by sophomore Rachel Jackson, senior Mattie Jacobs and sophomore Riley Quinonez have worried looks as Reverend Parris, junior Cooper Smith, kneels by the bench. “Being new to this department has been really fun and exciting,” junior actress Mikayla Sexton said. “I have met a lot of great new people. Everyone here are such incredible actors and actresses, and I am very excited to be around them and learn new things from them and our directors.” (Cate Emma Warren)

As a rule in the UIL competition, the students are timed during the setup and strike of the set. There is seven minutes for set up, and seven minutes for strike. They use this time to turn their set pieces into a school in the show’s new setting.

“The show has been going really good,” senior actress Karolina Rubio-Terrazas said. “It has required a lot of hard work, a lot of long hours and a lot of performances, but it’s been really worth it – getting up on the stage and competing it, seeing it all just come to life and advancing. Hopefully, we can advance this week, too.”

The varsity team performed their public performance Tuesday, March 14, at 6:30. The public performance is for family and friends of the cast and crew to have a chance to watch the show.

Huddled close on the foot of the stage, seniors Marlee Parrish, Mattie Jacobs and Karolina Rubio-Terrazas, juniors Mikayla Sexton and Lauren Grammer and sophomores Rachel Jackson and Riley Quinonez hold on to each other. “Mary Warren is definitely an interesting character,” Rubio-Terrazas said. “I like to think she represents the common people. She is just trying to survive and get through this entire situation, and doing what anyone needs to do – just basic self-preservation, even if that means turning on the people who have helped her most.” (Cate Emma Warren)

“Our take on ‘The Crucible’ is a more dystopian view of the play,” junior actress Lauren Grammer said. “It has been removed from the 1600s and made less about heaven and hell and more about government and how hysteria and mistrust can destroy a society. We chose to separate it from the puritanical origin because we wanted to demonstrate that it is not just a show about some random pilgrims and religious circumstances based 400 years ago – or even in the 50s – but a story that is still relevant today. It is not just about the church, but about human nature, and seeing these characters turn on each other when the circumstances test them is a timeless story, and we wanted to demonstrate that. We felt it was an important message, and that’s really our goal – to tell that story.”

Stepping forward, senior Karolina Rubio-Terrazas proclaims her duty to the court of Massachusetts as John Proctor, sophomore Pierce Polomsky, looks on in disgust. “The Crucible” is Polomsky’s first UIL show with the department. “John Proctor is a man who has committed one of the worst sins possible in this time,” Polomsky said. “He is an adulterer. In this show, he’s working to avoid his name being tarnished for the rest of time. He loves his wife very deeply and regrets his relations with Abigail. Throughout the show, he is trying to fix things with his wife, and prove to the court Abigail’s scheme to lock up his wife so she can have him.” (Cate Emma Warren)