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April 7, 2017:

REVISITING THE CRUCIBLE

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, the first play I ever acted in in high school was entitled The Crucible. I played Judge Hathorne – it was my first semester at Hamilton High. I’m quite sure I was revolting in the role, since it had no comedy and was not really much of a character to begin with. I have no doubt I gave it my all, and after our final performance I was taken to Wil Wright’s by my parents and those who’ve read Kritzer Time know that I ran into Judy Garland, who made a comment about me being an actor and hoping I’d done well, this because I hadn’t taken my makeup off. I loved the play, though – I found it, even at that age, compelling, literate, and filled with incredible moments. And, of course, during that time I also discovered Robert Ward’s opera of The Crucible, which I fell in love with.

My next Crucible experience was at LACC, where I graduated to the role of Reverend Hale, certainly one of the best roles in the show, and a role I probably had no business playing. The director was Alice Parichan – I’d had her for beginning acting and she terrified everyone who came in her path – she was brittle, demanding, but I know she liked me and thought I was a good actor. So, I think she wanted to push me and test me – I remember warning her that I felt people would laugh the minute I entered just because I’d only done comedies and musicals at LACC and that’s what I was known for. She didn’t care. She was tough, but was never mean or brittle with me. It was a weird production, which all took place within what one could only describe as a big donut hole, with the cast always sitting around the hole until it was time for their entrances. The fact that I, who have an incredible memory for everything in my past, cannot remember anything about the production or my performance means I’ve probably wiped it out of my memory banks. The only person I remember who was in the show with me was Cindy Williams, who played Abigail. It’s one of the only shows from LACC where I don’t have a program.

Around that time, I somehow saw this French movie version of The Crucible, starring Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, who’d apparently, with the film’s director, had done it on stage. I thought it was a little over the top and the screenplay by Jean-Paul Sartre certainly veered at times from the Miller text. And I didn’t think Mr. Montand was an ideal John Proctor, and just hearing the whole thing in French was weird in itself. Well, that version came out on Blu-ray last week, in France, and so I got a copy and I finished watching it last night. I enjoyed it but it’s still less than great and nothing about what I felt from my earlier viewing had changed. It has an interesting score by Hans Eisler, which during certain moments is more over the top than the film is. Watching it, piqued my interest in seeing the 90s version of The Crucible, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder. Happily, I found it on the Flix of Net and watched the first forty minutes and wasn’t really liking it much at all, so I shut it off.

I then nosed around the Internet – I didn’t realize how many times this has actually been filmed and/or televised – just a couple of years ago there was a UK version that was well thought of and shown in movie theaters – would like to see that one, but it doesn’t seem to be available. But the one that really piqued my interest was a 1967 TV version starring George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst. And I found a bootleg DVD online for 3.99 and so hopefully the quality won’t be too horrendous, and I should have it next week at some point. That version has a highly lauded performance by Tuesday Weld as Abigail – kind of perfect casting, if you ask me. The play remains as relevant today as it was back in 1953 when Miller wrote it.

Yesterday was a day that just kind of moseyed along. I got nine hours of sleep, got up, answered e-mails, then rustled up a batch of Wacky Noodles for my meal o’ the day. I ate that all up whilst doing a lot of work on the computer. I got a wonderful call from Richard Sherman, who told me again how rereading my books helped him get through the six weeks he’s been in rehab and how it made him feel that I was there with him. It was very sweet and I just love this man dearly. The good news is that he’s coming home today. I’ll try to visit him next week, although it would have to be on Monday or Tuesday because I then am in casting sessions from Wednesday to Saturday and those are all day affairs. So, it may have to wait until Sunday, but I can’t wait to see him.

I did go to the mail place but there was neither mail nor packages. Then I came right back home, did some more work on the computer, and then finally sat on my couch like so much fish.

After my Crucible viewing, I listened to some music, including the soundtracks to Raintree County and Twilight of Honor, both by Johnny Green. Johnny Green remains an enigma to me – a brilliant conductor who did a grand job on West Side Story, the movie, for which he won an Oscar – he also won Oscars for An American in Paris, Eater Parade, and Oliver. He was also a popular songwriter for a time – Body and Soul, Out of Nowhere, Easy Come, Easy Go, and others. But why he didn’t become a major film composer is the enigma. Raintree County is a brilliant piece of work – rich, filled with melody, dramatic, and varied – and LONG. It’s a classic, but Green did not score another film until Twilight of Honor, a low-budget black-and-white film starring Richard Chamberlin. And that, too, is a very good score – not Raintree County good, but one that really works for the film. And then, only two more films – Johnny Tiger and Alvarez Kelly. I wonder if he ever talked about why he wasn’t writing original scores all the time?

Today, we’ll be shipping out 1000 CDs of Two for the Road – the bulk, of course, going to dealers. I’ll also eat, hopefully pick up packages, and my word we really must finish casting the Kritzerland show – it’s never easy, not one time has it been easy in the last year. But, we’ll figure it out.

Tomorrow I have things to do during the day, then still haven’t decided if I’m going to the Gardenia in the evening. Sunday is a day of rest for me because next week is rather insane, with Wednesday through Saturday auditions that last all day long, with callbacks being on Saturday.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, ship CDs, eat, hopefully pick up packages, do a few things, then relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Friday – what is currently in your CD player, and your DVD/Blu and Ray player? I’ll start – CD, various soundtracks and other stuff to continue breaking in the new speakers. Blu-ray, probably Cinema Paradiso. Your turn. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have revisited The Crucible.

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