Eaton uses ‘Crucible’ play to supplement core subject learning
Eaton uses ‘Crucible’ play to supplement core subject learning
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Eaton students rehearse "The Crucible"

Subjects in school don’t always connect to one another, but when they do, it can greatly improve learning. That’s the goal of Eaton High School’s impending performance of “The Crucible,” which is also a sophomore-level English reading assignment.

At Eaton, theater students are using the performance to learn more about the play itself, which many of them will soon read in an English class. The play depicts the Salem witch trials in the 1690s, but it’s written in both a manner and dialect that can often be confusing without hearing the words read aloud. Additionally, the play heavily focuses on symbolism and other literary mechanisms.

“I read the play in English first because it was part of our summer reading, but it wasn’t easy to get at first since the language was weird,” said Clark Jones, a sophomore at Eaton. “When we started reading the play for theater, though, it was a bit easier to get. You got to see everyone act the performances out, and it was easier to relate to the characters. It helped me understand the play a lot more.”

Theater director Nick Kougias said his goal with performing the play – Eaton’s first non-musical fall play ever – was to help students comprehend the lofty background of the play, which was written in 1953 by Arthur Miller.

A major aspect of the play’s creation was Miller’s persecution by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. As one of several Hollywood writers called to testify about communism in the L.A. entertainment hotbed, Miller was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to identify other alleged communist supporters.

“One of my main focuses at Eaton is to use whatever we’re producing in fine arts to enhance what’s being taught in the core curriculum,” Kougias said. “It can be easy for kids to struggle with subjects in school, and the more opportunities we can offer them to reach high levels of success should be our focus as a campus and a staff. I believe we provide our students with a richer learning environment when we provide more opportunities for success.”


 
“It can be easy for kids to struggle with subjects in school, and the more opportunities we can offer them to reach high levels of success should be our focus as a campus and a staff.”
 
NICK KOUGIAS, EATON THEATER DIRECTOR
 

Calling “The Crucible” one of the best American plays ever written, Kougias said knowing the background of the play can also help students see parallels in modern life.

Student actors and technicians involved in the play agreed, noting that some of the differences in the play from their own lives still make it fun to perform.

“At first I thought it was just about the witch trials, but I realized it’s more about being true to yourself after we read it again,” said junior Sarah Zimmerman. “It was easy to relate to from that regard. Of course I was cast as Elizabeth Proctor, so that was challenging because I’ve never been married or dealt with all the terrible things she had to, like being accused of murder. But the underlying theme is definitely relatable.”

When asked about Sarah’s statement, Kougias laughed and said he’s glad the play is both relatable and new at the same time.

“Well, I’m certainly glad she can’t relate to those things and that’s challenging to her,” he said. “As educators, we get to pick a lot of what we teach. I could have picked another show, but I wanted something that’s challenging to kids and also helps increase their understanding in a core subject. That’s an important aspect of teaching: making sure kids are challenged but also making sure they learn.”

ATTEND A PERFORMANCE
Eaton High School will host performances of "The Crucible" at 7 p.m. on Aug. 10, 12 and 13 and at 2 p.m. on Aug. 14. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. All Northwest ISD staff and Gold Card Members receive free admission.