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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

Michael Sheen, Actor

“It just changed my whole brain.”

I had very recently joined my local youth theater, and they were remounting a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. I had not been a part of the original production, but the first thing they did was to do a run-through of the play in the rehearsal hall, which was really just the main hallway. The set was marked out with tape on the floor, and we would all sit at one end, and the directors and the teachers would sit cross-legged on the floor in the hall and just watch the rehearsal in front of us. This was just a run-through — no costumes, no set, no lighting, no nothing, just there in front of you. But it was the first time, really, that I’d ever seen a play. So I was sitting there, 13 years old, cross-legged on the floor, and this production of The Crucible happened five feet away from me. It literally changed my life, in that moment. It had the most powerful impact on me that anything had ever had up until that moment.

It’s a powerful play, obviously, and it was a superb production of it. All the people in it went on to become professional actors, director, writers who have had a big impact on British culture, artistically. It was so close to me, closer than it would be in a theater, and there was something so visceral and powerful about it. It just changed my whole brain. I was so absorbed in it and so profoundly impacted by the power of what this play was about — integrity and middle age and deception and the punishment of authority and totalitarianism and hysteria and youth versus age. All these kinds of things were in there. It just changed everything for me.