ARTHUR MILLER’S classic play The Crucible graces the Town Hall stage next week in an exciting co-production between the venue and Washington DC’s Keegan Theatre Company.
First staged in 1953, The Crucible draws a chilling parallel between the Salem witch trials of 1692 and the McCarthyism which gripped America at that time. The story of how the small community of Salem is stirred into madness by superstition, paranoia and malice, culminating in a violent climax, powerfully portrays the evils of mindless persecution and the terrifying power of false accusations.
Directed by Susan Marie Rhea, this American-Irish co-production features a cast of 20 and gives Irish audiences a rare opportunity to see one of the greatest American plays.
The chief instigator of the witch hunt is teenager Abigail Williams who maliciously accuses many of the townsfolk of consorting with the devil and ends up sending 19 innocent people to their deaths.
In the Keegan/Town Hall production the role of Abigail is taken by gifted young performer Sarah Lasko and, on a rainy Monday afternoon, she took time out from rehearsals to talk about taking part in the play.
Lasko hails from the town of Rockville, Maryland, about half an hour’s drive from Washington and, up to now, most of her performing experience has been in musical theatre.
“I grew up in a very musical family,” she reveals. “My mom brought me up listening to all musical theatre and my dad is a pianist so I grew up singing all the time and always wanted to be an actor.
“I started out mainly doing musical theatre. There’s a community college near my home that did summer dinner theatre so I started doing musicals with them and ended up going to that school and did a lot of musical theatre there.”
Last year, Lasko’s singing ability saw her reach the final of a talent-spotting contest run by BroadwaySpace.com and it also indirectly led to her landing the role of Abigail.
“I sent in a video audition for a musical show Keegan were doing last year,” she explains. “I got called back but didn’t get cast so I thought ‘Oh well, that’s that.’ Then, 10 months later, I got a message inviting me to audition for the role of Abigail. I wasn’t sure if I could because I was still in school but my parents said ‘Yes, absolutely, go for it!’ so I did the audition and got the role.”
Lasko is now relishing being part of the production.
“The experience is amazing,” she enthuses. “Abigail is such a great role. I’m usually cast as the young innocent ingenue type so getting to be a bad guy is exciting. Working with Keegan is amazing; Susan Rhea is a fantastic director. And because it’s one of my first professional roles it’s like every rehearsal is an acting class.”
She shares her thoughts on the character of Abigail.
“Arthur Miller describes Abigail as having an endless capacity for dissembling and that’s something I took to heart as I was exploring the character,” she says. “She’s incredibly manipulative and very good at getting others to believe what she wants.
“It’s interesting in that I have played the ingenue and Abigail pretends to be that but underneath she has this fierce, angry side that not everyone gets to see. She’s a great character to play because in every scene you see these different layers to her and you never quite figure out what’s going on.”
While she may not carry an Irish surname, like many Americans Sarah Lasko does have Irish roots.
“I have forebears from Northern Ireland,” she discloses. “I’ve been to Ireland once before but getting to come back now and perform here is like a dream come true!”
The Crucible runs at the Town Hall from this Monday to Saturday September 17 at 8pm nightly. There is also a Friday matinee performance at 12 noon. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie