The power of healing: “John Proctor is the Villain”

From Friday, Feb. 23 to Sunday, March 3 “John Proctor is the Villain” runs in Hope College’s Dewitt Studio Theatre. The production, written by Kimberly Belflower and directed by Rhett Luedtke, is about a high school honors English class from rural Georgia, who navigate what it means to be a community whilst discussing their experience with topics such as sexual power struggles, rumors and struggling to discern who to believe all while studying “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. Despite these heavy topics, this production is a comedic whirlwind that is entertaining and captivating. 

The Anchor talked to cast members Kolton Muldowney (‘27), Sofia Wake (‘26), and Nadia Cuthrell (‘27) about their work on this production. For both Muldowney and Cuthrell, this is their first Hope Theatre production. Both have been highly involved with theatre in the past and discussed what their experience with the department has been like thus far. Muldowney said this about the cast of “John Proctor”: “This cast is a wonderful group of people. I didn’t do the musical [“The Addams Family”] so I felt like I had a little late start with everyone, but I feel like I was incorporated so quickly and everyone is so thoughtful, all the stage managers, everyone. It’s a great group of people.” Just like the rest of the Hope community, Hope’s Department of Theatre is truly a family that is supportive and builds each other up. 

Cuthrell added, “I really like Hope’s theatre department because we get to do shows that make change.” Hope does a great job at producing plays that are worthwhile and meaningful. They often deal with difficult subjects that challenge the audience while simultaneously providing a fun experience. Another example of this is “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark”, a script by Lynn Nottage which will be showing on the Dewitt Main Stage in April.  

This script is particularly challenging due to its central theme of sexual power dynamics within the high school setting. Wake commented on this by saying, “[…] these are just kids. Like, [the hardships that they go through] shouldn’t happen, period, but that’s such a formative time and having to process that without the proper instructions… like, they’re not equipped. My character even says that she feels that she is not equipped to start this journey of healing. They’re just kids.” The process of healing as a community is an integral element in this play. One of the main aspects of the plot is the student’s Feminist Club that meets up to discuss their support of the #MeToo Movement as well as everyday issues that women face. This translates to the students being able to process their emotions in a healthy way through the friendships that are created. 

Through the process of healing and learning, many of the kids experience changes in their opinions on certain topics. Wake said, “A lot of the characters have an arc throughout the show where they start off thinking and believing one thing and by the end of the play, the events that have occurred influence them to where they either see things in a new light or their worldview is influenced and you get an inside view of these deeper discussions and processing together.” 

Cuthrell added onto this by discussing the process of de-roling, which she uses to work through the emotions that her character faces. “De-roling is kind of where you remind yourself that you’re not your character. You can do that a lot of different ways. Personally, after rehearsal, I like to check in with myself and remind myself that I’m not my character, the emotions that I felt were her emotions not mine even though I’m having physical reactions to her emotions, that’s not coming from my circumstances. I think that this is really important with some of the tougher characters in this show.” Playing a role that requires a lot of emotional energy can be draining. Many of the characters in this show go on emotional rollercoasters of fun mixed with hardship, so taking the time to debrief after rehearsals is important. 

This is especially true with contemporary plays that are realistic fiction. Wake discussed the realistic qualities of “John Proctor is the Villain,” stating, “It’s kind of like a slice of life play, like an inside view of a normal classroom in rural Georgia, dealing with the aftermath of an act of harm within their community, and seeing how a community is formed out of that and how people stand up for each other […] It’s a great show for building empathy, because a lot of the time, people just need someone to listen to their story.” This play resounds into the audience, speaking loudly without fear of its authenticity. 

Beware: every single person that experiences the art that is “John Proctor is the Villain” will be changed for the better, learning through a lens that they have only experienced when they themselves were 16 years old, while also, of course, laughing hysterically. Muldowney finished his interview, adding to this word of caution: “Be ready for anything. This play goes in so many different directions.” 

The remaining shows are Feb. 29-March 2 at 7:30 p.m. and March 2-3 at 2 p.m. The cast includes: Elliana Johnson (‘26), Ruby Hlathein (‘26), Jacqueline Schatz (‘27), Nadia Cuthrell (‘27), Sofia Wake (‘26), Meg Voetberg (‘26), Kolton Muldowney (‘27), Christopher Laubach (‘26), Kyle Spiegel (‘27). Go support these talented actors as well as the crew that makes this show glitter… high school style.  

Abby Doonan ('24) is the Arts Editor for The Anchor and was previously a staff writer. She is a theatre and communication double major from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Abby loves acting, any music that makes her dance or sing, hula hooping, romcom movies, and all things Marvel. She is passionate about arts journalism and strives to publish content that keeps you updated on all the artsy things!

'The power of healing: “John Proctor is the Villain”' has 1 comment

  1. February 28, 2024 @ 5:22 pm Kyle Spiegel

    Awesome article Abby!!


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