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SEM’s Production of Afflicted: Daughters of Salem is Transformative

Ann+Putnam%2C+Mercy+Lewis%2C+Mary+Warren%2C+Abigail+Williams%2C+and+Betty+Parris%3B+preformed+by+SEM+students+Molly+Enstice+19%27%2C+Abigail+Collins+18%27%2C+Aurora+Kraus+18%27%2C+Mary+Leslie+19%27%2C+and+Ellen+Yanko+21%27.
Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Abigail Williams, and Betty Parris; preformed by SEM students Molly Enstice 19', Abigail Collins 18', Aurora Kraus 18', Mary Leslie 19', and Ellen Yanko 21'.

Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Abigail Williams, and Betty Parris; preformed by SEM students Molly Enstice 19', Abigail Collins 18', Aurora Kraus 18', Mary Leslie 19', and Ellen Yanko 21'.

Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Abigail Williams, and Betty Parris; preformed by SEM students Molly Enstice 19', Abigail Collins 18', Aurora Kraus 18', Mary Leslie 19', and Ellen Yanko 21'.

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Afflicted: Daughters of Salem Poster. Designed by Alex Galbraith and Zoe Galarneau.

Described by students as powerful and magical, Buffalo Seminary’s theater instructor Susan Drozd and her department constructed another impressive production – this time of Laurie Brooks‘s Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, this past weekend.

Done at Buffalo Seminary on November 16, 17 and 18 the play described the story of the five young girls behind the accusations that led up to the infamous Salem witch trials of 1691 in Puritan New England. “The play was magical in the sense that it spoke for a silenced history,” said senior Bridget Ewing.

Afflicted consisted of six main roles. Yasmeen Collins stared as Tituba, who is more or less the mother-figure for the girls. Starring as Abigail Williams, the lead was junior Mary Leslie. Another role was Ann Putnam, played by junior Molly Enstice. The remaining roles of Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren and Betty Parris were played by senior Abby Collins, senior Aurora Kraus and freshman Ellen Yanko.

The PAC was transformed into a professional-looking theater-in-the-round with inclined seating that wrapped around every wall.  The lighting was dimmed to only spotlights – sharing the darkness with the actors made the audience feel as if they were part of the show themselves.

Though sparsely set, Afflicted was enhanced by characters who did accents and with audio installments.

SEM junior Mary Leslie was Abigail Williams.

In early stages of planning the production, many girls were disappointed in the lack of roles offered this theater season.  Afflicted only consisted of six speaking parts, and four non-speaking roles of symbolic Salem townspeople.

Seniors tried out for this production and were upset to realize how limited the spots were, especially for a school that has such heavily interested students in theater. However, after watching the performance, it is clear as to how the limited roles enhanced the experience of the story. With few main characters, the audience could understand the stories of Abigail, Ann, Mercy, Mary and Betty and feel the tension as witchcraft dipped into their lives.

As a first time attendee at a Buffalo Seminary play, to see my classmates transform into character was impressive, to say the least. Each student’s talents poured out onto the stage. In addition to the actors, there were so many other factors that left me speechless. The lighting and audio created by students enhanced emotion and depth into the play, as did  the handmade costumes, which consisted of long heavy gowns with bonnets, all constructed by the student costume crew with the help of professional costumer Carrie Drozd.  Even the silent roles were perfectly choreographed and locked into character. In all, the amount of work this production must have taken is difficult to comprehend. With the stage set up, scripts, costumes, props, audio, and special effects, and the daily practices ranging from three to six hours were well worth it.

Senior Zoe Galarneau worked on the play as costume build, costume run, and helped design the playbill and poster. She gave an inside look at the behind the scenes of Afflicted, and described the experience as stressful. However, she shared that she definitely plans to participate in SEM’s spring production.

Senior Maggie Rose both opened the show and worked with junior Alicia Land to sell tickets and hand out programs at the performance.

In addition, like many of SEM’s productions, the ending was creative and refreshing. The audience became active in the play and were able to determine the fate of the Salem girls after hearing their stories. Moreover, Tituba (senior Yasmeen Collins) proceeded to end the play with a series of questions to the audience that brought the story into a real-world aspect. She asked “Is the way rumors were spread in the play relatable to rumors today?” The audience nodded and agreed that interactions today may be different, but rumors still have the same kind of power they did in the past. One rumor put on a social media site could destroy somebody’s life.

Salem Girls: Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Abigail Williams, and Betty Parris. Performed by SEM students Molly Enstice ’19,  Abigail Collins ’18, Aurora Kraus ’18, Mary Leslie ’19 and Ellen Yanko ’21.

When the overhead lights switched on and the girls took their bows, it was hard to not want more. The production of Afflicted was short, only about an hour in total. Although it was based on the unheard stories of the girls and told how they were affected by witchcraft, I wanted to know more about the trials. Though, isn’t that what a good performance should be all about? Wanting more and thinking through the story well after it is over.

In addition, senior Aileen Cotter, spoke about the impact of the play. “The performances were revolutionary,” she said, “it accurately depicted what those mistreated women felt during that horrible time.”

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SEM news and announcements written by students for students, faculty, parents & alumnae
SEM’s Production of Afflicted: Daughters of Salem is Transformative