Witches Fly In for Vinegar Tom
After working intensely on the show with director Jules Odendahl-James since September, the witches of Caryl Churchill's Vinegar Tom are ready to magically appear on stage tonight. The undergraduate cast will transform nightly starting November 9 through November 19, as they slide between time periods, flashing into 1670 and back to 2017. The narrative arc of the show takes place in the 17th century, but performers break out of their 1670s characters to comment through music on the themes of scapegoating, misogyny and abuse of power brought up by the script. The breakouts are highlighted by quick costume changes that designer Derrick Ivey made possible by creating layered pieces with costume shop supervisor Kay Webb. The songs are also enhanced by video projections provided by the students of Raquel Salvatella DePrada's Visual Arts class, Animation, Comics & Theater, who bring flames, dripping blood and psychadelic swirls into the mix on stage.
While director Odendahl-James does find the humor in the script that makes serious topics bearable, Vinegar Tom does not shy away from the terror and violence perpetrated against women during the actual witch hunts. Audience members are cautioned to "exercise self-care in choosing to engage with this material." Fight director Jeff A. R. Jones was brought in to teach the cast how to be safe when falling off a platform, choking each other, and drawing (stage) blood. No undergraduates were harmed in the making of this production!
The underlying themes and history of the script will be explored in more detail during the post-show discussion on Friday, November 17. That event features members of the creative team and the cast, along with Duke faculty Kimberly Lamm (Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies), Thomas Robisheaux (History, Medieval and Renaissance Studies), and Corina Stan (English). These experts will discuss “bad” women in art and popular culture; the personal and political motivations behind witch trials across place and time; and the early work and influences of playwright Caryl Churchill.