ISU Theatre doubles up productions

Double feature

Submitted graphic.


Did you study "The Crucible" in high school English class? This month, you can see the American classic in a new light when ISU Theatre presents it in repertory with the critically acclaimed contemporary play "John Proctor is the Villain."

With separate casts and creative teams, the shows will share a two-weekend run (April 18-28) as Fisher Theater's stage crews will hustle to turn the sets over six times, giving audiences an option to see each show on the same weekend. While repertory sometimes refers to a shared cast, in this case it means the opportunity to experience two productions in combination and conversation with the other.

"The Crucible" show times are 7:30 p.m. on April 18-19 and 27, with a 3 p.m. matinee on April 28. "John Proctor is the Villain" will run April 20, 25-26 at 7:30 p.m. A matinee performance on April 21 starts at 3 p.m. This play contains adult language and content.

Each show's ticket is general admission ($20 for adults, youth and Iowa State students are free) and can be purchased at the door or the Iowa State Center ticket office. For ticket information, visit

70 years later, "The Crucible" still has plenty to say

Based on the Salem witch trials of 1692, Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" tells the story of a village embroiled in a witch hunt. As accusations of witchcraft escalate and neighbors testify against one another, the community lives in a constant state of fear.

Cason Murphy, assistant professor of theatre and director for the production, remembers first encountering the play as a student in an AP English class. While his teacher led the class through a rich analysis, Murphy said he was always a bit ambivalent about the play as an adult.

"I hadn't encountered it in my theatrical life since then and certainly never planned to direct it," he said. "However, when our season advisory committee suggested that ISU Theatre produce the very popular 'John Proctor is the Villain,' I had new life breathed into my interest around 'The Crucible.'"

"The Crucible," the 1953 Tony Award winner, arose from Miller's desire to write about the Red Scare, a period of anti-Communist hysteria in the 20th century United States. Miller used the setting of  "The Crucible" as a mirror for his own time.

Michael McAuliff, who plays the role of John Proctor, a farmer, husband and father, said the play shows there's more to every story.

"I hope people think about how the play still is applicable and relevant to today's world," he said. "Even in the present, people are far too quick to blame others and vilify members of an 'out' group before actually hearing the full story, and I think that, despite the Red Scare being over, that kind of feeling is still very prevalent."

Gen Z's voice elevated 

Alongside "The Crucible," ISU Theatre will present "John Proctor is the Villain," a contemporary play by Kimberly Belflower. As a high school class explores "The Crucible" in present-day Appalachia, scandal begins to swirl in their community, and the assignment leads to an examination of power, love and sex education.

Belflower wrote her new play inspired by the #MeToo movement, giving Miller's timeless themes an emotional and thought-provoking spin.

Tiffany Johnson, co-founder of the Des Moines-based Pyramid Theatre Company and the show's director, said the play allows students to examine power dynamics and discuss important topics like consent, agency and accountability. With its expressive, Gen Z-specific dialogue, the show also resonates personally for students.

"In essence, 'John Proctor is the Villain' offers these students a mirror to their own lives, creating a powerful and transformative educational experience that goes beyond the classroom walls," Johnson said. "The play's ability to connect with the students on such a personal level underscores the enduring relevance of theatre as a medium for social commentary and change."

Cyntechy Boduo plays high school student Nell, and while the role of a 21st-century teenager may seem more accessible for an Iowa State student than that of a Puritan farmer, Boduo said the cast spent a lot of time researching the world of their characters.