Nate, the young man portraying Deputy Governor Danforth states that it is no confession if he will not sign his name. If there is no confession, he will be hanged. He collapses to the floor, signing the paper as he drops his head in shame and cries. Nate reaches for the paper, and again, he refuses, declaring, “no, no. I have signed it. You have seen me. It is done! You have no need for this,” as he rips the signed confession in two. This terribly distressed man is John Proctor, who in this production is being brilliantly portrayed by my older brother.
At this point, I am completely unaware of my surroundings. I’m not in my seat in the Crystal Lake South Theater, but in Salem, Massachusetts in the sprint of 1692, observing this horrific trial myself. They continue to argue as I sit, frozen, fighting back the tears of compassion I feel for the innocent young man whom I’ve known all my life. As a five year old, I had stood beside him as a supporting actress in our “at-home-production” of Robin Hood. I can remember him telling me how to use my paint mixer as a sword in the coming fight scene before my dad started rolling the camera. He encouraged me to look at the camera and show the angry feelings in my face while I was fighting. Now he’s standing on a stage before me, completely captivating an audience of over three hundred people, and his pain and humiliation I can feel as if it were my own.
He won’t give in, but asks that Nate (Governor Danforth) tell the high court he has confessed, as a Governor’s word should be good enough for any court official to hear. Nate then asks with suspicion, “It is the same, is it not? If I report it or you sign it?”
“No, it is not the same! What others say and what I sign to is not the same!” He proclaims, staying true to what he believes. John Proctor won’t have his name posted on a wall for his three children and the rest of the town to see saying he has confessed to something he has not done.
“Why? Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?” Demands Danforth.
“I mean to deny nothing!” He shouts back with such conviction that goose bumps fill my arms and legs.
“Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let--“ Nate is interrupted by a line delivered so powerfully, so honestly, and with such humility that it changes something in me. He shouts with the cry of his whole soul, “Because it is my name!” Everything stops. For a split second, everyone is silent. The tears that have welled up in my eyes start to roll down my warm cheeks. He continues, the only person in the whole theater making a sound, all eyes focused on him, “Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang!” He starts to cry, “How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
In this moment, I sit, gazing up at the boy who once was just my brother, but who now has transformed into the character he is portraying. Suddenly my mind races back to more memories I have of him. I’m sitting watching him play baseball, hitting homeruns and striking out batter after batter wondering why I don’t see joy in his face and why his whole heart isn’t into it. I’m watching him blocking and tackling on the football field yet after the game paying no attention to it. I’m running lines with him in our living room so he’s ready for the following day’s rehearsal, asking myself how he suddenly has the discipline to work hard at something. I’m lying in my bed trying to sleep as I hear him singing the words of a strictly relevant song, “The crowds will cheer when they see my face, and a voice keeps saying, this is where I’m meant to be”. I start to realize that this stage, not a baseball diamond or a football field, is truly where he is meant to be.
As children, we take several different paths to many different activities to find where out true hearts lie. For some of us it takes a lot of work; for others it comes in the first place we look. For my brother, it took three different sports, many different activities, and a lot of arguing with my mom expressing a great deal of attitude, but once he found it, he really pursued it. Watching him on stage that evening made me realize something about him, and ultimately about myself, that I’d never noticed before. My brother has always been a role model to me, yet in this moment, I learned something new from him. He knew what it meant to work hard for what he wanted, and he understood that he didn’t have to pursue something just because someone told him to do so, but he pursed it because he had passion for it and it’s what he wanted to do. I had never noticed all the hard work he put into acting until I saw him putting his whole heart and soul into his performance as John Proctor in Crystal Lake South’s production of The Crucible. Ever since I watched him in that scene and heard him deliver the words, “because it is my name,’ I realized that he has a heart and a talent for acting, and someday I will be seeing him on a professional stage where he will be bringing joy to thousands of people through his talent. This defining moment in my life has taught me to pursue my dreams, my purpose, and my passion, and to run after it with all of my heart. When my brother stood before me proclaiming that we have but one name that speaks integrity and truth, I felt him speaking directly to me, encouraging me to find the truth in my name and the one true passion that lies in my heart.