Professional New York actress Abbey Siegworth wasn’t familiar with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s play “Abigail/1702” prior to auditioning for the Nebraska Repertory Theatre’s production of it, but she knows the main character from it all too well.
Aguirre-Sacasa wrote a sequel to “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s fictionalized classic about the Salem witch trials that occurred in 1692 and the hysteria that engulfed the Massachusetts community, leading to 20 innocent victims hanged as witches.
The new play -- which enjoyed its world premiere in January 2012 at the Cincinnati Playhouse -- catches up with Miller’s seductress, Abigail Williams, 10 years after she danced with the devil in Salem. As she cares for a young sailor on the brink of death, a mysterious stranger from her past catches up with her, sending her on one final, suspense-filled quest for redemption.
The Rep and new artistic director Andrew Park cast Siegworth as Abigail. She played the role in a high school production of Miller’s play.
“I’m thrilled and terrified,” said Siegworth, who has been in Lincoln since Aug. 28 working on the production. “(The role) is so big and such a huge undertaking. The play is so beautifully complex. When something’s that daunting, the responsibility to serve it grows in kind. I immediately felt the weight of that.”
The Rep, in collaboration with the Lied Center for Performing Arts, opens “Abigail/1702” Saturday night in the Johnny Carson Theater. It marks the return of the Rep, which has been on hiatus since the summer of 2014.
The Rep, beginning its 49th season, shut down to restructure and hire a new artistic director after Virginia Smith, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln theater professor, stepped down after 10 years. It’s reopening as a year-round professional theater rather than operating as a summer repertory. It’ll continue to feature of a mix of professionals, local talent and students on and off stage.
Smith will be on stage in the new production -- joining Siegworth as one of three professional actors.
The theme of the new season is “Classics Reimagined,” with a focus on telling familiar stories in a new way -- hence, “Abigail/1702” from the versatile Aguirre-Sacasa, creator and executive producer of TV series "Riverdale" and book writer for the musical adaptation of "American Psycho" that ran last year on Broadway.
“I’m really excited and a little bit scared,” said Park, who started in January as artistic director. He came to the Rep from Chicago, where he was an award-winning artistic director, stage director, playwright, lyricist and puppeteer. “I’m having all those emotions you have when you’re about to start something big. I’m trying to keep it all in perspective.”
Siegworth comes to the Rep having worked extensively with Dallas Theatre Center, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and throughout Milwaukee and Chicago at Next Act, Reniassance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Shakespeare and Northlight. She was recommended to Park through a mutual friend.
“The woman you meet in Roberto’s play is on a journey,” Siegworth said. “We all, through our lives, reflect on our past and navigate through our failings and discretions.”