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2021-2022 Season Program: Theatre Studio Ensemble - "Vinegar Tom," Spring 2022

UB Theatre and Dance Presents: Vinegar Tom
April 29 - 30, 2022 @ 7:30pm
Directed by Kelli Bocock-Natale

Show Graphic.

By Caryl Churchill

Directed by Kelli Bocock-Natale

Musical Direction by Anthony McCall

Assistant Director & Production Stage Manager: Cassandra Elkin

Produced by spedal arrangement with Samuel French, lnc.

Playwright Caryl Churchill on Vinegar Tom: Written in 1976, Vinegar Tom delves into the subjugation of women during the witch hunts of the 17th century. She writes of her play: "l wanted to write a play about witches with no witches in it; a play not about evil, hysteria and possession by the devil hut about poverty, humili­ation and prajudice, and how the women accused of witchcraft saw themselves."

The play follows the story of Joan and her daughter, Alice, who are accused of witchcraft ajter an argument with a neighbor. This neighbor also claim that VinegarTom, Joan's cat, is a familiar, an evil spirit. Throughout the play there are women who are suspected of being witches simply because they are 'unconventional' hynot wanting to marry, or because they seek medicinal herbs for contra­ception. Churchill shares the following regarding her research for the play: "l discovered for the first time the extent of Christian teaching against women and saw the connections between medie­val attitudes to witches and continuing attitudes to women in gen­eral. The women accused of witchcraft were often those on the edges of society, old, poor, single, sexually unconventional. Also the old herbal medical tradition of the cunning woman was being suppressed."

Churchill celebrates the unconventional in Vinegar Tom with her structure for her play: between each scene there is a modem musi­cal interlude that underscores the themes in the story. ajter two witches are hanged in a public square, a modem song bursts forth with the lyrics: Look in the mirror tonight. Would they have hanged you then? Ask how they're stopping you now.

(in Alphabetical Order)

Betty: Alissa Dabrowski
Susan: Samantha Debello
Singer: Alissa Di Cristo
Joan: Isabella Gomes-Barrientos
Margery: Madeleine Husvar
Ellen: Julie Mahoney
Packer: Zuriel Mason
Jack: Anthony McCall
Man, Kramer: Nicolas Torres
Goody, Sprenger: Daniel Warman
Alice: Julia Witt

We would like to thank Greg Natale, Cindy Darling, Melinda Lamoreux, Michael Formato and our cast mascot Scrumpy, the cat.

Vinegar Tom takes place in rural England in the 1600s, when witch hunts spread like a pandemic through Europe and then onto America. Tens of thousands were executed for imagined dalliances with the devil. Almost all of them were women. But witch hunts don’t strictly belong to any time or place.  

Whether or not a fear of sorcery remains in the zeitgeist, “witch” is a word that persists — weaponized against women — to scapegoat and to shame. “Witch” is a word given to women who inspire discomfort, who brandish a kind of power that can’t be controlled or commodified.

That power, though, isn’t a power of privilege: the accused in Vinegar Tom are poor or husbandless, living on the fringes of polite society. They lack the matrix of currencies that might allow them to navigate their society without disruption: mon-ey, youth, purity, the endorsement of a respectable man. But in unsubscribing from their culture’s convention of what sort of woman every woman must be — by existing within the chasm of the unacceptable — they become a threat to the enduring fallacy that there is an unimpeachable mold for womanhood. By eschewing dominance and docility, they cut new paths to create change for the women that will come genera-tions after them. They refuse to conform or to make them-selves smaller, simpler, more manageable than they are — and that’s the power of the witch.

So you won’t spot any magic in Vinegar Tom, but you’ll see plenty of witches: women who complicate the way we con-ceive of womanhood, and who fight to stake their claim in a shared society. And while they may be punished for it — in this recreated rural England from the 1600s — their challenges and their refusals to be contained are triumphs and echoing calls to action.

Stay in the fight, witches.

-Kelli Bocock-Natale

Department Chair & Producing Director: Anne Burnidge
Production Manager: Michael A. Formato
Assistant to the Chair: Veronica Sedota
Staff Assistant: Rachel Olszewski
Faculty Liaison: Lindsay Brandon Hunter
Voice and Movement Coach: Kathleen Golde
Production Assistant: Rob Falgiano
Academic Manager: Melissa Berg


UB Theatre and Dance wishes to acknowledge the generous continued philanthropic support of Fox Run at Orchard Park, and Lake Shore Savings Bank, official 2021-2022 season sponsors, especially in light of the challenges facing Buffalo's vibrant community of performing arts organizations.