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10/16/2003 Crucible to open new Marshall Theatre at Linfield

An award-winning drama about the Salem witch hunts will be the first major production in the new Marshall Theatre in Ford Hall at Linfield College.

Performances will be Nov. 6-8 and 14-15 at 8 p.m., Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. and Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for general admission and $5 for students, faculty and staff.

"The Crucible," Arthur Miller's Tony Award-winning historical drama about the witch hunts in Salem, Mass., is both a gripping historical play and a timely parable of contemporary society. First produced 50 years ago, the story focuses upon a young farmer, his wife and a young servant-girl who maliciously causes the wife's arrest for witchcraft. The farmer brings the girl to court to admit the lie, and it is here that the monstrous course of bigotry and deceit is depicted. The farmer, instead of saving his wife, finds himself also accused of witchcraft and ultimately condemned with a host of others.

Tom Gressler, professor emeritus of theatre who will direct the play, said the story contains age-old themes that can be seen in today's world.

"All societies conduct their own kinds of witch hunts, usually based on fear of the unknown," said Gressler, who taught at Linfield from 1980 to 2000. "And these witch hunts usually depend on some kind of hysteria. The hysteria that descended on Salem in 1692 is not unlike the hysteria of McCarthy's witch hunts in the 1950s or even the anti-Arab hysteria that enveloped some sections of this country after 9/11."

Gressler said he's honored to be directing the first major production in the new theatre. And he knows the play well. It was the first show he directed at Linfield in 1980 and it will be the first Linfield show he's directed since retirement.

"It seems to be a fitting end to my dedication to and love of the school and the program," he said. "It is a nice bookend. You start there and you end there."

The play will also mark the first major production in the new Marshall Theatre, a long-awaited milestone for Gressler who served as director of the theatre program at Linfield and diligently pursued new facilities during his tenure.

"I get emotional every time I walk into that place," he said of the new building. "It's been a dream for me since 1980, and for other people since 1969 when the old theatre burned down. To walk into the place is overwhelming. The education that is going to happen in all these rooms is the focus of the program."

The cast features 20 actors, ranging in experience from students who have not set foot on a stage to professional actors including Ted DeChatelet, adjunct professor of theatre at Linfield, and Janet Gupton, assistant professor of theatre arts. Gressler said the experience to interact with faculty and professionals strengthens students' acting skills and enhances peripheral details such as the discipline of being on time, knowing lines, respecting other people and choices on stage.

"Acting opposite someone really skilled brings your own acting skills up," Gressler added. "Just by observing, the students will learn a lot. We thought this was a perfect opportunity to show students this faculty can do what they preach. If we're to be educating students in theatre, having this experience working with all those levels of skills is good for everyone."

Debbie Harmon, a 1990 Linfield graduate with degrees in political science and theatre, and currently serving as director of capital giving, is stage manager for the play. She is working with a student assistant for the show, adding yet another mentorship aspect to the production.

Tickets can be reserved by calling 503-883-2292 or by e-mail at theatre@linfield.edu. Tickets may be purchased at the box office beginning Monday, Oct. 27. Hours are 3-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with expanded box office hours on performance days.

To reach the new facilities from 99W turn east on Keck Drive, across from Roth's Market in south McMinnville. Turn right on Lever Street and right again on Ford Drive. Ford Hall is located on the west end of the parking lot.