• The Magic of Reading The Crucible Out Loud


    (This is from my journal in April, but I thought I’d share it on my blog.)

    Something amazing just happened.

    I planned to read Act 3 of The Crucible out loud with my high school writing class, a small group of homeschool teens (amazing people, by the way!). They had read Acts 1 and 2 at home, but I really wanted to give them a chance to read it together.

    I’ve always heard that because plays are created to be read out loud, they must be read out loud to communicate what they are meant to communicate. Back when I was in high school, we used to read plays out loud in class, and I loved it.

    So my homeschool writing class sad down Tuesday, ready for class, and I assigned parts for The Crucible.

    There’s always the student who wants to be the bad guy, and the one who wants to be the good guy.

    “I’m Danforth!”

    “I’m Proctor!”

    “I’m Abigail!”


    We chose parts. And then something magical happened.

    We read Act 3 of the play. These high school students made up their character’s voice, gestures, and personality. They laughed at themselves and at each other. They drew up from their emotions their best expressions and related to their characters with carefree hearts, glad it wasn’t real life.

    It wasn’t just like acting. It was different.

    It was storytelling.

    It was communing.

    It was friendship.

    We finished Act 3–and these students!!! They begged me to keep going and finish the whole play with reading Act 4 out loud.

    My agenda was shaking a finger at that idea. But my heart was like, “Let’s do it! Let’s go with this! This is when we learn, right? When we are having fun?”

    It wasn’t that they wanted to get out of the SAT practice essay I had planned — OK, maybe that was part of it. But we captured something so special and joyful and rare in that half hour and we all wanted more. We needed more. We all felt it.

    The Crucible isn’t exactly the most upbeat story. So why were we so energized?

    Our hearts were bursting with that thing we all get from literature. What is it exactly?

    Imagination? That word doesn’t seem sufficient, but it’s a start. What do you call imagination used within a community? Mixed with acting and storytelling? Mixed with laughter and brilliant literature?

    We got to use our imaginations in a new way, and we were hungry for it, and we didn’t even know it until we were done and wanted seconds.

    They begged me to read the last act together in class.

    And of course I said yes.

    And Rebecca Nurse would not admit she was a witch and she hung, and John Proctor would not admit to witchcraft so he hung, and Elizabeth Proctor was in prison, pregnant, her children at home without mother or father.

    And when they left class that day, they said, “That was so much fun!” and “Thank you!”

    And I knew exactly how they felt, because I felt it too.

    I cried as I wrote this out. Clearly, in our culture, we are hungry for something more.