The Crucible at the Halloran Centre 

Our President tweets the expression regularly these days. Sometimes he uses it as part of a larger message, but sometimes simply the two words typed out in all capital letters: "WITCH HUNT!" It's an expression, ripe with anti-female and anti-knowledge biases, that dates back centuries. Orwell winks at it, but in the U.S.A., its modern and more metaphoric meaning took hold in the middle of the 20th century, alongside the anti-Communist Red Scare, when the country, as it sometimes does, lost its collective shit.

click to enlarge Bewitched
  • Bewitched

Before Donald met Twitter, the term "witch hunt," most commonly employed to project images of focused and sustained mass bullying, was also famously hijacked by President Richard Nixon, as Watergate's noose tightened around his administration. But conceptually, nobody has ever essayed these nine terrifying letters like American social realist playwright Arthur Miller, whose frequently revived drama The Crucible docks at The Halloran Centre this week, with some Memphis actors in the touring cast. Jamie Boller, whose actor/father Greg Boller is currently appearing in Circuit Playhouse's remarkable production of Sweat, is one of those actors. She's been touring in the role of witch-accuser Abigail Williams and has a few ideas about witch hunts, and how America responds to these words as you move away from urban landscapes, into the heartland.

"When the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation was going on, lines stood out," Boller says of the traveling show. "Like, 'What profits a girl to turn herself about,' when Mary Warren is being questioned. It makes us think about victims of sexual abuse. What do they profit by telling the truth? But there's this other line, too: 'Is the accuser always holy now?'

"The language triggers a lot of responses in modern audiences," says Boller, who believes her show refines as it tours in response to audience talkback. "There's a lot of division and fear of people who are different. Part of the National Players' mission is to go to places where this might be the only theater they see all year."

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