Tom Smith, as Deputy Governor Danforth, challenges Heather Berry, as Mary Warren, during a rehearsal of Arthur Miller s The Crucible Oct. 9, 2017. The Perennial Theatre Company s production of The Crucible is scheduled for Oct. 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 at the Champagne County Historical Museum in Urbana. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY R.J. ORIEZ

‘The Crucible’ still stands out for modern audiences

URBANA – A historical play that still resonates today will have an added atmosphere by taking place at a historical setting during the Halloween season beginning, appropriately enough on Friday the 13th.

The Perennial Theatre Company will present Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, Saturday, Oct. 14, Oct. 20 and 21 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15. It will be in collaboration with the Champaign Historical Society on its museum grounds, 809 E. Lawn Ave.

As much as this fortunate timing places into “The Crucible,” which focuses on the Salem witch trials and its effects on the people, Perennial co-founder and play director Kohl King planned this classic as a deliberate follow-up to the group’s spring musical, “Godspell.”

“These plays mirrored each other” said King. “Where “Godspell” was about being positive and giving, “The Crucible is just the opposite, about how fear and loathing can destroy you. We want and audience to have a lot to think about.”

While “Godspell” played well at the historic Gloria Theatre, King knew a different setting was necessary here. He found the perfect solution after approaching the Champaign County Historical Society.

King said they loved the idea of partnering. While their building is not large enough, the lawn proved to be an ideal setting for the play.

“I’ve never actually seen an outdoor production. We’re going to keep it minimalist, so we’ll keep it appropriate to the time period, which was simple and it echoes that,” King said.

The costumes are all handmade by Theresa and Virginia Sparks.

The biggest challenge for King has been the cast size. Used to presenting shows with smaller casts – his largest was “Godspell” with nine – “The Crucible” has 19.

Add to that numerous cast changes as several actors couldn’t commit to their roles. King thought the bigger scale has been intimidating, but said he’s happy with his cast, which has worked hard.

“Arthur Miller is great theater,” he said. “We think ‘The Crucible’ is as relevant now as much as when it was written. It shows how fear, hatred and ignorance can tear people apart.”

He added that the connection with the Historical Society resonates more given a circumstances of a falsely accused Champaign County man in the 1800s, showing it can happen anywhere.

King said the partnership with the Historical Society has been strong and he hopes they can continue to work together. The play will also build audience awareness of the Historical Society’s levy in November.

“We’re both nonprofits here to support each other,” said King.

Following “The Crucible,” King said Perennial will take the next few months to focus on its business aspects to make sure it continues to remain self-sustaining.

The company will look at producing another musical in 2018 and return to the smaller, artistic plays it started with in the future.

Tickets will be available at the various performances, but only cash can be accepted. They are also available in advance.

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