Would you like to support local journalism?

(with some quirky flair)

Regular News FEEDINGS via social + online. by locals for locals

HomeLifestyleEvents and ExhibitionsTale of trials and tribulation comes to Manly

Tale of trials and tribulation comes to Manly

Point Break Drama Theatre Company are performing The Crucible at the Star Of The Sea Theatre, Manly (in the grounds of Stella Maris College), from tonight, Thursday 4 April, for a limited run of six shows.

The Crucible, written in 1953 by American playwright and screenwriter Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, A View from the Bridge, The Misfits), is a dramatization of the infamous Salem Witch Trials that took place in Massachusetts, USA, between 1692-3, with fictional characters at its centre.

This notorious episode, driven by mass hysteria, saw 200 people accused of witchcraft, many of whom were arrested and put on trial – a capital offence that carried the death penalty if convicted.

Paul Winchester, who co-directed the play, appears as farmer John Proctor, whom, with his wife Elizabeth (Melissa Jones), are falsely accused of witchcraft.

Paul Winchester, actor and co-founder of Point Break Drama Theatre. Photo source: Facebook

According to the summary notes of the play, “John struggles to prove his innocence and gain his wife’s freedom up against the dominant theocratic law of the time, all to the backdrop of mass hysteria in the village, personal vendettas, abuse of power and large-scale lies and deception.”

Along with Paul and Melissa, there are 17 other character actors appearing in this theatrical production, described as, “A story arguably more relevant today than ever before, Miller’s portrait of deeply-paranoid village life will amaze with both its language and vivid characters.”

Point Break, which Manly Observer last featured a year ago, originally began auditions for a planned production of The Crucible in February 2020.

However, due to the pandemic and subsequent social distancing and government-mandated lockdowns, the production had to be postponed until 2021, then shelved.

Paul told Manly Observer, “The dominant theme of The Crucible that resonates for me in 2024 is, ‘What actually is truth?’ In the play various characters and institutions present their version of the truth to manipulate, control and deceive each other or the people as a whole.

“Yes, there are outright lies too, then lies about the lies themselves. Where have we seen that before?

“All enabled by fear, panic and mass hysteria in the village.”

Melissa Jones and Paul Winchester during a rehearsal of The Crucible. Photo: Point Break Theatre

Paul continued, “The play serves as a warning to keep our governments, the media and all institutions in check and accountable. We must speak up early if we see injustice and never allow lies and manipulation of truth to become the norm.”

Allegory and allegations

In The Crucible, playwright Arthur Miller, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was married to Marilyn Monroe (1956-61), wrote the play as an allegory for the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

This American government agency, created in 1938 to investigate perceived anti-American subversion and links to communism, operated during the notorious McCarthy era of the ‘Red Scare’ and wasn’t dissolved until 1975.

HUAC stoked the communist phobia gripping USA at the time, and ordered suspects to attend tribunals, compelling those on trial to submit names of people they perceived to be communist agitators, or risk being made unemployable.

Actor Charlie Chaplin was famously driven into exile by HUAC in 1952 and many others lost their livelihood for such ‘dangerously progressive’ things as joining workers’ unions and supporting the advancement of black people.

The Crucible production poster. Photo: Point Break

After The Crucible was first performed, playwright Miller himself was investigated by the HUAC. They subsequently persuaded the US State Department to refuse Miller an American passport, preventing him from travelling to England in 1954 to attend the play’s opening in London.

In May 1957, Miller was summoned to testify before HUAC, which subsequently found him guilty of Contempt of Congress because he refused to divulge names of suspected dissidents. Miller was sentenced to imprisonment, ordered to pay a fine, blacklisted from Hollywood, and denied a passport.

However, the conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeals in August 1958, which ruled that the Chairman of the HUAC had misled Miller by promising he wouldn’t have to name others if he faced the tribunal and confessed to his own left-leaning views.

In 1952, 300 years after the Salem public executions, six of the victims were posthumously absolved of witchcraft. A further five were exonerated in 2001. As of 2024, the remainder of those hung for witchcraft remain guilty on American statute books.

TICKETS: https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/1174664

Star of the Sea Theatre, Stella Maris College, 52 Eurobin Ave, Manly.

Theatre website: https://stellamaris.nsw.edu.au/star-sea/

Point Break Drama website: https://pointbreakdrama.com.au/

Point Break Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PointBreakDramaDeeWhy/

Paul Winchester + Melissa Jones interviewed on Michael Lester’s Community Voices program on Radio Northern Beaches: https://www.mixcloud.com/michael-lester5/crucible-of-lies-truth-fear-parnoia-paul-winchester-dir-mel-jonesactor-the-cruciblevol363/


Support quality local news

Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

Kim Smee, Editor

Become a supporter