A chat with the director of WITCH

Garret Storms asks:
Witch is inspired by and loosely based on a play from the early 1600’s called The Witch of Edmonton. Our playwright, Jen Silverman, has set this adaptation “then-ish” but, despite the play’s time period, has written the dialogue to be quite contemporary and immediate. In many ways, this play functions by having its feet firmly planted in opposing forces: past and present, comedy and drama, truth and fiction, magical and secular. Without giving too much away, what do you find to be the most exciting aspects of working on a mercurial piece like this that encompasses many contradictory things at once?

Kara-Lynn Vaeni answers:
Hmmmmm. Well, the answer that comes to mind right away is that I love working on any Jen Silverman play PERIOD. She writes about topics that I personally find Very Important while also being scary and exhausting to continue to think about in the abstract or in my actual personal life.

For example, I would say one thing Witch deals with is the dehumanization of women by men as a (very successful) way to access and retain power.

So if we just go ahead and say, “this play has feminism at its core”---well, that’s a Very Important topic for me. But also? It’s been Very Important for decades and it never seems to be quite solved. And it’s scary and exhausting feeling like, “we’re never going to be able to put the need for feminism to bed because treating women as less than men somehow never seems to go out of style, somewhere in the world.”

BUT— I would say this play has feminism at its core, because that’s very often what I think is at the core of many things.

I think another person might say this play is about how to raise a boy into a man and keep him safe when you are a single father. Another person might say it’s about how to get out of poverty. Someone else might say it’s a fun piece about the devil falling in love with a witch who isn’t a witch. Evan Michael Woods (who plays Cuddy) would definitely say it’s mostly a play about being the Best Morris Dancer Ever.

But ALL those people would say that this play is a delight! Because that’s the thing about Jen’s plays — they deal with difficult questions through magic! And spectacle! And humor! And treating every character fairly so even if you vehemently disagree with what they say or do, you totally understand why they need to say and do it. (Which is such a rarity in the actual world right now.)

Finally, specific to Witch being a delight, Jen sets up an expectation by putting everyone in period clothing and then smashes it (they all speak like it’s 2022) with delightful results! And you can try to put words to why she did that, and what she wants us to think about by doing it — or you can just roll with it and enjoy. And you will have a great experience either way. She keeps us guessing the whole time and I love trying to keep up with her.