Ballet Austin II presents the world premiere of Season of Innocence: an inspired retelling of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
, April 10-11 at Ballet Austin’s AustinVentures StudioTheater.
Choreographer Nick Kepley, who serves as ballet master for Ballet Austin’s apprentice company, transformed Miller’s 1953 Tony Award-winning play into a contemporary ballet that bursts to life with searing physicality, as it questions the human capacity to stay silent or speak the truth.
“This play has haunted audiences ever since its original premiere,” Kepley said. “The themes it explores, including the idea of who holds power and who decides what is good and acceptable, are pertinent societal questions we continue to examine.”
To create the piece, Kepley first had to adapt the original manuscript to fit the size and scope of Ballet Austin II. This has meant combining certain characters into one and eliminating certain plot points altogether.
“Season of Innocence is not a literal translation from Miller’s play to a dance work, but the heart of the story is there and was the inspiration for this ballet.”
For the score, Kepley turned to Steve Parker, founder and director of SoundSpace at the Blanton Museum of Art. Parker’s work, commissioned by the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation, developed out of inspiration he found in the work’s title.
"A ‘crucible' is defined as a container where metals are melted, subjected to very high temperatures, and ultimately transformed,” Parker explained. “In this work, I was interested in exploring how this idea could be translated musically, where an array of metallic instruments and objects were manipulated in various ways to produce novel sounds. I was also interested in exploring the juxtaposition of sacred and secular music though the use of religious chant and indigenous vocal traditions. I’m honored to be working with the very talented choreographer Nick Kepley and Ballet Austin II on this project, and it has certainly pushed my work into new and exciting directions."
North Carolina-based couture fashion designer Liz White designed costumes for the new work, utilizing Puritan patterns as a jumping off point to create something more modern.
“Nick was interested in building a world that felt a bit suspended in time,” White noted. “So I played with showing a bit more skin, while adding lace here and shortening hem lines there. The history of the piece is certainly in the costume design, but my hope was to add enough anachronistic detailing that the audience’s mind would be free to relate things back to the contemporary.”
Another way Kepley has chosen to deepen the audience’s experience is by offering onstage seating alongside the performers.
“We’re creating an atmosphere that feels tight and tension-filled,” Kepley said. “For audience members to watch the action and then glance across the room at others who are also watching magnifies the sense of judgement and voyeurism.”