World Theatre Day: Jagriti gets ready for a rehearsed reading of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible

Directed by Arundhati Raja, the reading features an ensemble cast and an after-show interactive session with Aditya Sondhi

A rehearsal session in progress

By Reema Gowalla

“Bengaluru sees a lot of old and new plays taking the stage all year round, but we also need to create access to global theatre. Public readings are a great way to understand the script of established plays that you may not actually read or see as a stage adaptation, because these are tough to translate to full-fledged productions,” says Arundhati Raja, who is directing Jagriti Theatre’s new offering — a rehearsed reading of Arthur Miller’s acclaimed play The Crucible.

The 2-hour-30-minute show is slated to take place as part of World Theatre Day celebrations at the theatre hub on March 27, at 3 pm. The ensemble cast includes noted actors Preetam Koilpillai, Rebecca Spurgeon, Mayura Baweja, Leenaz Samad Beecha, Jaya Kalyanaraman, Swati De, Ayaat Attar, Tanvee Ravi, Mohan Ram, K Kalyanaraman, Varun Kainth, Kanchan Bhattacharyya, Amit Bhuvan, Roy Sinai, Rohan Gurbaxani and Jagdish Raja. The dramatic reading will be conducted via an arrangement with London’s Josef Weinberger.

Arundhati Raja

A compelling historical play and a timely parable of contemporary society, The Crucible is based on the infamous Salem witch trials that happened in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692–93. The US government’s persecution of people accused of being communist was what inspired the playwright to write this piece. Now considered a classic, this play continues to evoke interest around the world. Terming the title of the play apt, the director says, “A crucible is a laboratory apparatus or a situation, in which different elements interact to create something new. For me, this is the crux of the play and why it is so frighteningly relevant today. I leave it to the audience to make their own comparisons.”

Varun Kainth

Varun, who is reading the part of Giles Corey in the show, finds the character sweet and curious. “He’s a rugged old farmer, who lives a simple and hearty life in Salem. Many a time, Giles’ inquisitiveness also provides the much-needed comic relief in the play. In his 80s now, he has already been married three times. He goes about doing his daily business until one day he notices that his wife Martha is engrossed in reading a book that he has no clue of. Things spiral when he mentions this to his close confidant, and she is eventually accused of witchcraft,” he elaborates.

Given the complexity of the script, the team is also trying to make the reading an engaging one for the audience. “We want people to take play reading as an experience and not just be passive spectators at the show. Dramatic readings are usually not very easy to do. Nevertheless in The Crucible, we wanted things to be a bit more active and movement-based. Having an ensemble cast allowed us to read the script scene by scene, with different characters walking in and out of the performance area at different times. This keeps the energy alive, while the artists also get the opportunity to emote better as well as curate their voices accordingly,” Arundhati explains.

Thrilled to be the voice of a character who is about 40 years older than himself, Varun says, “With the theatre slowly opening up across the city, it’s a fulfilling experience to do a dramatic reading with so many talented artists around. To top it off, my character in the play is an interesting one. If the show is directed by Arundhati, you already know that a substantial amount of work has already gone behind it. Even the cast is put together after a lot of deliberation. Instead of being auditioned, they are designed for the characters. This will help shape the production if it ever goes to stage.”

Taking the experience a notch higher, arrangements are also made for an interactive session with the audience after the reading, in which senior advocate and theatre practitioner Aditya Sondhi will respond to the themes used in the play. Proceeds from the show will go toward Jagriti’s ‘rebuilding resources initiative’, which will help the institution meet the infrastructural and operational costs as well as help sustain the ecosystem of artists and performances, all of which were battered by the pandemic.

You can book your tickets here.

Members of the ensemble cast with the director at Jagriti Theatre; (image credit: Roy Sinai)

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