BYFIELD — The scene begins with a tense exchange between a 17th century farmer and his wife and a confrontation with their servant girl, builds to a menacing interrogation of the couple by a clergyman, erupts in the anguished cries of their neighbors whose wives have been accused of witchcraft, and ends with the wife facing witchcraft accusations of her own.
It's Act II of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," in the hands of seven student-actors at Triton Regional High School.
Under the direction of Triton drama instructor Sha Riordan, the students will perform the 24-minute scene in the preliminary round of the Massachusetts High School Drama Festival at St. John's Preparatory School on Saturday, March 1.
The performance will mark Triton's first-ever entry into the drama festival, which has been staged since 1933. In this year's preliminary round, 110 school ensembles will be performing at 14 locations, including Newburyport High School, according to the festival's Web site.
The cast is composed of Dan King as Salem farmer John Proctor; Margaret Leahy as his wife, Elizabeth; Taryn Marcorelle as their servant, Mary Warren; Paul Rowe as the Rev. John Hale; Norman Jutras and Lowell Wahtera, as neighboring Salem farmers Francis Nurse and Giles Cory; and Dan Berardi as court clerk Ezekiel Cheever.
"The Crucible," which depicts events surrounding the 1692 Salem witch trials, was Triton's fall play, presented Nov. 1 to 4. The pivotal second act is being revived for the festival, which limits performances to 40 minutes running time. All the actors reprise their original roles except Dan Berardi, who was Salem pastor the Rev. Samuel Parris in the fall.
After a recent rehearsal in the Triton auditorium, Riordan told the actors they were making progress in getting the scene back to the level they had achieved in the fall.
"You guys are finally getting it back. Do you feel you're getting it back?" she said, as the cast members nodded in agreement. "I don't need to tell you any more about this scene. You understand what you're doing. You get it."
Rehearsal over, the actors talked about their upcoming debut in the festival. They were unanimous in both their enthusiasm and their confidence.
The festival, Paul Rowe said, is "more exciting than the actual show (last fall)."
"We're all comfortable with each other," said Dan King. "I'm especially proud of this scene."
"It's going to be fun," Taryn Marcorelle said.
Riordan has directed the festival itself and worked in the past for other schools that have participated.
This is her second year at Triton, which she said is unusual in that it offers a full drama curriculum.
"The Triton community is tremendously supportive of the arts," she said.
Triton's will be the third show of the day March 1 at St. John's Prep and will perform at 11:15 a.m. There are seven other schools performing: Medford High School, Swampscott High School, Academy of the Pacific Rim, St. John's Prep, Gloucester High School, Marblehead High School and North Shore Regional Vocational-Technical High School.
Forty-two of the original 110 schools will advance to the semifinal round on March 15, and 14 semifinalists will compete in the state finals at Boston's John Hancock Hall on March 27, 28 and 29. Two winners will represent Massachusetts in the New England Drama Festival in Rutland, Vt., April 17 to 19.
Two other Triton students are working on the production. Nathan Hunter is lighting designer and technical director, and Tina Puopolo is stage manager.
The costume designer is Lisa Johnson, and the production assistant is Martha Leahy.
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