Danielle Ridge, left, Gaby Ruiz and Emily VanDegrift perform during a dress rehearsal for "The Crucible" at Estancia High School on Tuesday. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / November 30, 2011)

  • Related

COSTA MESA — Estancia High School's drama department is taking on an American theater classic about the Salem witch trials that uses allegory to connect the colonial-era story to McCarthyism.

Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" made its 1953 stage debut and has been revived frequently ever since.

But it's not exactly an easy show, particularly for high school students.

"It's emotionally mature," said senior Riley Stack, 18, who plays John Proctor. "The last couple of years we did comedy dramas. This is a drama, drama."

Estancia will bring the story to life Friday night at the Barbara Van Holt Theatre for four performances running through Dec. 10.

"It's a really great story," said senior Parisa Esfahani, 17. "It's a story people know about."

Miller is one of drama teacher Pauline Maranian's favorite playwrights, but it was the students who brought up the idea of performing "The Crucible" after reading it last year.

"It was their interest that sparked my interest," she said. "I wanted to work on something meaty."

To get into a part so removed from their everyday lives, the students wrote a character analysis and watched a film version of it.

"When you read it for homework, it's different than from a character perspective," Riley said. "I don't think I've read a play as much as I've read this play."

Senior Jose Herrera, 17, who plays the elderly Giles Corey, researched his real-life character and then personalized the role.

"I don't show him as weak, because he is a feisty character," he said of the 83-year-old Corey.

Riley said it's not just about getting into the character's mindset, but figuring out how they would stand, walk and talk.

"You piece these things together and eventually you start acting like your character," he said, sporting a beard he grew for the part.

The more dramatic nature of "The Crucible" has been a challenge, but it's also been a chance to stretch as actors, Jose said.

"The kids have worked so hard. I'm really proud of them," Maranian said. "It's such an important drama and story, and I really hope people will come and support them."

britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

If You Go

What: Estancia High School's drama department's production of "The Crucible."

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Dec. 9 and 10

Where: Barbara Van Holt Theatre, Estancia High School, 2323 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa

Cost: $8 for students, $10 for general admission.