How the Darkest of Humor Can Help Us See the Light
An Interview with “Witch” Playwright Jen Silverman
Geffen Playhouse | Aug 19, 2019 | By Amy Levinson, Geffen Playhouse Associate Artistic Director
Was The Witch of Edmonton [the source material for Witch] something that has always been of interest to you? How did you come to be inspired by this piece?
Jen Silverman: I had been interested in the source material for a long time, but I only knew it as a written text. It’s thought to have been written by three different playwrights, which is part of why it was so unapologetically messy. Most of the plays I encountered from that time period that dealt with witches were essentially propaganda plays: they instructed people on what to do if they had a witch in their midst. The Witch of Edmonton is the only one I found that boldly announces to the audience that it is going to do this exact thing, and then does entirely the opposite. It says, “This is a play about how evil and awful witches are and how the good folk are being led astray.” But then, in the first scene, you meet a woman who isn’t a witch at all — she only becomes one because she is so reviled. The devil shows up in the form of a dog and even he says, “It’s hard to be you — would you like to be a witch?” The original play is so disarming and subversive that I had always wanted to engage with it without knowing how I would go about doing that.