Salem witch trials begin at Best

The Best Players at Dr. Charles Best secondary school in Coquitlam showcase The Crucible this and next month. - JANIS WARREN/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
The Best Players at Dr. Charles Best secondary school in Coquitlam showcase The Crucible this and next month.

Rumours of witchcraft swirl in the Puritan town of Salem, Mass., after a group of girls dances in the woods with a black slave.

They are seen by the Rev. Samuel Parris, whose own daughter Betty is accused of practising in the dark craft. When she wakes up, she names names.

And so begins the finger-pointing that brings the community into an uproar in Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic tale, The Crucible.

School director Brad Case assembled 29 actors for the dramatic American play that opens at Dr. Charles Best secondary in Coquitlam next week.

At first, the students were perplexed about Case’s choice of The Crucible “but when I broke it down and made it relevant to today, they understood,” he said.

Miller paralleled his story with the “witch hunt” that was happening in his day under Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who sought out Communists, communist sympathizers and gays in the U.S. during the Cold War of the 1950s.

His — and other flawed figures’ — unsubstantiated accusations whipped a wave of intimidation; their narrow-minded tactics and excessive zeal ruined careers and, in some cases, lives.

“It didn’t matter that 200 years had passed,” he said. “It was the same thing.”

In Salem in 1692, it was young girls who stirred the fear and suspicion campaign that was more rooted in old grudges and land claims than sorcery.

Case compares the narrative to president George W. Bush and his administration falsifying the weapons of mass destruction claims to justify the war on Iraq.

Untrue gossip in the school hallways or even via social media are other modern-day equivalents, he said.

Case said he wanted to stage the play as it is a full Broadway show. His Best Players alternate each year between a musical and stage play “to allow students who can’t sing a chance to perform as well,” he said.

He singled out Kelsi James, a Grade 11 student, for stitching up the Puritan costumes with a team of six students, and Celeste English for managing the stage.

• The Best Players present The Crucible on April 30, May 1 to 3 and May 7 to 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Dr. Charles Best secondary (2525 Como Lake Ave., Coquitlam). For tickets at $12/$8, call the school at 604-461-5581.





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