Most of us studied The Crucible (or at least skimmed the SparkNotes version) in high school. Studio Theatre’s newest production, the world premiere of John Proctor is the Villain, paints a stark, yet optimistic, reminder that Arthur Miller’s allegory of McCarthyism remains relevant today.
In John Proctor is the Villain, playwright Kimberly Belflower reexamines this American classic and infuses it with adolescent perspective and popular culture to delve into power, love, and sex in the post-#MeToo era.
Revisiting literary canon through a modern lens
When scandal descends on a one-stoplight town in rural Georgia, the “he said, she said” trope and clashing adolescent and adult power dynamics fuel the small-town rumor mill and expose our culture’s enduring power structures.
“Things like the patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism are all systems that thrive on oppressing vulnerable people,” said Belflower, “which translates to other structures that get passed down from generation to generation.”
The same holds true for canonical literature. “Who’s included in the canon? Why? Who gets to decide? How does canonical literature get taught? Who decides that? Who gets to question it?” posed Belflower. “So, while the play is set in 2018 Appalachian Georgia, the issues it explores will, unfortunately, likely remain relevant for many years to come.”
When it comes to the Salem Witch Trials, the Red Scare, and other eras of the past that were defined by conspiracies and social reckoning, we have the benefit of hindsight. This retroactive judgment makes it easy to distinguish right from wrong. However, living through the #MeToo movement was an important reminder that situations aren’t always as black and white as they seem.
In John Proctor is the Villain, Belflower honors the reality of life’s gray areas. “There are a lot of intentionally unresolved moments and areas of moral murkiness, many of which I’m sure will have different interpretations and prompt different allegiances,” acknowledged Belflower.
After all, what one person calls a witch hunt another calls the truth.
A fast-paced production with wide appeal
John Proctor is the Villain is a revelatory play that Studio Theatre lauds for capturing “a generation in mid-transformation, running on pop music, optimism, and fury—writing their own coming of age story.”
A self-described loquacious southerner, Belflower considers “Gilmore Girls perhaps my most sacred text.” Needless to say, a languid drama John Proctor is not. “In high-stakes situations like the ones the play explores, things move more quickly than what’s comfortable,” explained Belflower. “I think that’s a very teenage thing, too, to react in the moment before you can fully think it through.”
By capturing the teenage voice without condescending to it, John Proctor is the Villain masterfully engages audiences across ages, generations, and life experiences.
“I hope [audiences] question things they’ve always assumed to be true, or valid, or right,” said Beflower. “I hope they leave thinking more highly of teenage girls than they did coming in. I hope they go home and…dance their frickin’ hearts out.”
“John Proctor is the Villain” runs April 27 – June 5 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St NW. Tickets start at $50. Visit Studio Theatre’s website to reserve your seat today.