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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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‘John Proctor is the Villain’ captures teenage love, literature and beyond

Ben Crop
Alex Keever, Charlotte Hecker, Annette McGuire, Calla Kamenov and Joselyn Pacheco Morales in SBCC Theatre Arts Department’s production of JOHN PROCTOR IS THE VILLAIN by Kimberly Belflower, November 8-18, 2023, Jurkowitz Theatre, SBCC West Campus. 805-965-5935 or Photo credit: Ben Crop

The carefully painted walls of the backdrop in the Jurkowitz Theatre have been textured to imitate the drywall and exposed brick of an underfunded public school classroom.

Over the blackboards and single whiteboard, portraits of famous authors gaze out at the audience. Edgar Allen Poe peers over groups of desks from the center of a wall, the sole man between a set of women. Students and a teacher enter the room, the stage lights up, and–between a U.S. flag and a Georgia state flag–the date is revealed. It is 2019, and English class has begun.

The Theatre Group at SBCC’s latest production, “John Proctor is the Villain,” follows a group of high school students in rural Georgia. As they study “The Crucible” in their English class, they struggle with their own rumors, accusations, and relationships.

When the play opens at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8 in the Jurkowitz Theatre, audiences will be immersed in the lives and friendships of Beth Powel, Ivy Watkins, Raelynn Nix, Nell Shaw, and Shelby Holcomb, played by Charlotte Hecker, Calla Kamenov, Annette McGuire, Jocelyn Pacheco Morales and Sascha Nikolai respectively, as they deal with revelations about each other as well as the adults in their lives.

Director Sara Rademacher emphasized collaboration throughout the process of bringing the show to life.

“We go over all the research about the history of the play, and the history within the play, and how that all connects to what we’re doing right now, and life right now, and politics right now,” she said. 

Rademacher is an alumna of UCSB and earned her master’s degree in theater directing at Columbia University. She has worked on productions throughout the country, including City College’s production of “The Wolves” last year. It was during that production that the director was first able to collaborate with Pamela Shaw, The Theatre Group’s costume designer, and Patricia Frank, theater department co-chair and director of design and technology at  City College. Shaw and Frank were essential in designing and curating many visual elements of the play.

“We make adjustments all on the way, so it’s quite a few different iterations of what it looks like,”

Audience members can look for easter eggs throughout the set as they sit as flies on the walls of the classroom in which Carter Smith, played by Alex Keever, teaches. Posters and portraits alike coordinate with the literary references made throughout the play, and a growing list of vocabulary words written on the blackboard provides clues as to what will next occur.

From their first uncomfortable synchronized recitation of the definition of “abstinence: the act or practice of choosing to refrain from having sex, and the only method 100 percent guaranteed to prevent pregnancy,” to their final expression of joy on the stage, the entire small cast traverses through a whirlwind of rumors and doubts that echoes the play they are learning about in their class.

Unlike “The Crucible,” however, “John Proctor is the Villain” documents the reclamation of girlhood, whether through wordless screaming sessions, Taylor Swift discourse, or interpretive dance, in a world that is just beginning to question traditional ideals of masculinity, honor, and integrity.

Performances of “John Proctor is the Villain” will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 8 until Nov. 18. The 2 p.m. performance on Sunday, Nov. 12, will be live-captioned for the hearing impaired.  General admission tickets are $18, while tickets cost $15 for seniors and City College staff and $10 for students.

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