Indianapolis Opera is surrounding its production of Robert Ward's opera version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible with a range of public programs involving a half dozen community organizations. "Civil Liberties and The Crucible" is a public discussion presented by the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, Feb. 24, 6 p.m. at the Meridian Street United Methodist Church, 5500 N. Meridian St.
IO cast members will perform scenes from Ward's Pulitzer Prize-winning opera. John Clark, Sagamore Institute senior fellow, will provide context for the opera by discussing what actually happened in Salem, Mass., how the climate of "McCarthyism" in the 1950s led Miller to write the play and why The Crucible speaks to today's anxieties and threats.
"The Indianapolis Opera's performance of The Crucible comes at a sad moment: Arthur Miller, America's greatest playwright, died on Feb. 10," Clark stated. He added that "Writing The Crucible at the height of McCarthyism, Miller used the Salem witch trials to explore how persecution can shred communities and families, how political paranoia can jeopardize personal integrity and self-respect. Fifty years later, these concerns still resonate."
Current topics that tie into the themes of The Crucible, which premiered on Broadway in 1953, include fears about enemies since Sept. 11, leading us to surrender fundamental rights and freedoms. Clark points to the hastily stitched together PATRIOT Act, passed unread by Congress days after the terrorist attacks, and to increasing suspicion of those who seem foreign. He asks if close-minded American nationalism could chill the dissent and free-thinking essential for a healthy democracy.
"We will discuss whether these fears are overstated, or perhaps not stated loudly enough."