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Olympian's 'The Crucible' provides intense payoff Bill Swank | Fri, Jun 07 2013 12:22 PM

The curtain would open in 15 minutes, but the auditorium at Olympian High School was almost empty.

Senior Caitlin Mazeau was selling tickets.

“Usually there are a lot more people at our plays, but I don’t think that many people know about ‘The Crucible,’” she said. “They know about ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Grease’ because they are fun. ‘The Crucible’ is about religious oppression and the abuse of power.”

Slowly, a trickle became a multitude. Cast and crewmembers scrambled to add more folding seats. The house was packed.

 “I came with my cousins who attend Olympian,” said Justice Cortez, a freshman at San Diego Academy. “I’d heard about the Salem witch trials and thought the play would be interesting. The costumes and acting were good, actually great for high school.”

The intensity of the play increased after intermission. “There were a lot of false accusations and lying,” Cortez opined. “People were not getting the proper punishment. It was very realistic.”

David Anjakos, an articulate junior crew hand, added: “I studied about the Salem witch trials in U.S. history. My history teacher told us about the ‘Red Scare’ when many people were accused of being communists without any proof. A man named McCarthy had a list of 209 people he said were communists. He ruined their lives just like in the witch trials. I’m not an expert on politics today, but rumors can still ruin people’s lives.”

Jake Schaeffer, who portrayed unfaithful husband John Proctor, expressed reservations about the play’s most memorable quote. “It wasn’t easy for me to deliver my line, ‘God is dead.’ I don’t believe that and my character didn’t believe it either, but he admitted adultery and felt he deserved to die.”

Drama offers many students an opportunity to overcome shyness.

“I’ve never played a character who was liked by the audience,” Taylor Werlinger said. “I was the cook in ‘Alice in Wonderland ‘and I’m the crazy reverend in ‘The Crucible.’ I’m a quiet person, but I did enjoyed yelling at Abigail’s character in ‘The Crucible.’ She’s rotten.”

Olympian productions always feature artistic sets and scenery created by Dennis Bobo. Costumes for ‘The Crucible’ were a challenge until Stephanie Emerson stepped forward to volunteer her services.     
“I’ve always wanted to be a ‘drama mom,’ Emerson said. “My son (Andrew Basquez) is in the crew. Drama teacher (Jennifer) Schaeffer said they needed Puritan costumes, so I made 14 girl costumes, four or five vests and knickers for all the boys.”

At the end of the evening, like the audience, Schaeffer was wrung out.

 “I underestimated the gravity of making ‘The Crucible’ come to life on the stage, because the theme is so serious,” she said. “This is not light theater. As an English teacher, I saw the impact this play had on my students. The issues remain timely today.”

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