Danforth’s Journal: Week One

PlayMakers company member Jeffrey Blair Cornell is keeping a journal of his impressions of the process for creating our upcoming production of The Crucible. Keep checking back for more updates as the production comes together.

?????????? Thursday, September 16, 2016

JP (John Patrick, Vocal Coach for PlayMakers) just sent me an email: “Yo! You around today? I’d love to touch base on Danforth’s sound before we start next week. I have been dreaming and scheming with Desdemona [Chiang our director] on how to best deliver her concept for this show and want to hear your thoughts.”

Turns out that the director has an exciting idea (not to be revealed here) that will make this “timeless” play set in 17th century Salem find even more relevance for today…And part of that idea is that Danforth comes on speaking a little differently, maybe with a Boston accent…

“Talk to me, Goose. Your thoughts? I have many things to send you but I want to be sure you’re at least curious in this direction before shoving it in your inbox.”

Desdemona’s concept is startling to me. Not sure how to respond initially…I do love being surprised by directors’ concepts. Sometimes they feel gimmicky, but this sounds promising…thrilling, even.

Whenever a classic American play is scheduled in the season it always makes you wonder, why? I mean, of course, they’re classic plays that have been deemed worthy, canonical. And, since we’re striving to be (please, God!) not a museum of theatre but a vibrant, living theatre, we have to find contemporary relevance….

But, I’m not very good at Boston accents.

Friday September 17, 2016

So, we start rehearsals on Tuesday. Meet and Greet at 1:30 in the lobby of the Paul Green Theatre, design presentations, read through? Even though I’ve been a member of our small acting company for 20 years, it’s ALWAYS exciting! Possibility, potential. Not just to tell a story, but to tell it today, for today…and maybe with different storytellers? (THAT seems to be almost as important, yes?)


Director, Desdemona Chiang, included an “Up Next” note in the program for PlayMakers’ first production of the season, Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit ’67 (chronicling an African-American family affected by the “race riots” that transformed that city and the country – although the event has been given that term, “race riots” now seems to say much about who was giving out names for things in the ‘60s…) But, to Desdemona’s note. She raises some exciting (and troubling) areas of focus for our work:

“Fear needs fear: in order to explain to itself why so many people are afraid, the community begins to believe that the fear must have legitimate origins.”

“I hope to take an empathetic look at The Crucible, to understand how individual thought can be subsumed by group mentality in times of crisis. […] How systems of power come to justify using torture and execution as a reasonable means of maintaining civic order. […] [How] sometimes, for the sake of maintaining that sense of safety, it’s more important to be right than to do right.”

“How did we get here?”

Since our production will close November 6, two days before we elect a new president, this question will undoubtedly be asked quite a bit between now and then…

I love that a first-generation, Chinese-American director gets to be the leader for this production — digging into our “American-ness” just as America is digging out of a campaign for its own.

Oh, yeah – and Ariel Shafir and Sarita Ocon are playing the “Puritan” Family Proctor!

Here we go —

How did the first rehearsal go? Click here to read all about it.
Click here to read more from Jeffrey about rehearsals from Week Two.

The Crucible hits the stage October 19.
Get your tickets today!