Production Blog

A behind the scenes peek at rehearsals, artistic choices, artist interviews, and the daily business of running a theatre.

A chat with Lydia Mackay on a place to start

Q: You play the titular character in this show who is inspired by a real person. While the play has no aim to be biographical, it does capture a timeless essence. In addition to being charming, witty, and hilariously clever, the play grapples with themes of identity, transition, hope, despair, love, and the blurry relationship between beginnings and endings - things that many of us have developed more nuanced relationships with over the past couple of years. As one of the area’s most prolific actors, what do you find most thrilling about this role at this particular moment in time and bringing the essence of this real woman to a modern audience?

A: Thank you for asking a question that makes me feel seen. Playing Elizabeth Sawyer at this moment in space/time feels like a dream come true for a kid who ran wild in nature, hid from monsters, and always turned down the princess costume in favor of the Witch. Hi, I’m Lydia Mackay, and I proudly claim the moniker of Witch. To me, these last two years have felt like an evolutionary fast forward, and I’m not just talking about a global pandemic. If we rush to get on the other side of it, we’ll have missed the chance to build something new. If we HOLD CENTER throughout it, we’ll come away changed… aka, that blurry relationship between beginnings/endings. What has started to blur for me is the line between my art and my life. I find myself deeply curious these days about the relationship we have with our physical/spiritual selves, our community, our purpose, our planet, and our capacity to heal ourselves. I believe these things are inseparable from one another. Throughout history, Witches have been a construct named by those who were/are AFRAID of those inseparable relationships. Witches are healers/teachers/guardians/seekers/conservationists/rebels, those who nurture/guide/protect/provoke/and do not fear the flame. Elizabeth does not fear the flame. The world needs more Witches, so join me by the fire and let’s dance.

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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.

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