Sapphire Butterfly Blue by Melissa Major
A poetic and surreal examination of the Salem Witch Trials.
Bridget Bishop was the first woman to be tried and hanged as a witch in Salem Village, Massachusetts, 1692. During this time, a very strong belief in the devil was present. When the daughter and niece (Betty Parris and Abigail Williams) of Reverend Samuel Parris became strangely ill with bizarre and hysteric symptoms, and failed to improve, the village doctor, Samuel Griggs was called. He diagnosed the girls with “bewitchment” beginning what came to be known as “The Salem Witch Trials,” an occasion where 19 women and men were hanged, one man crushed to death, seventeen others left to die in prison and many others having been caused severe misfortune by the events. Simultaneously, these events were mirrored across Europe.
Many historians believe the girls and their friends who began to exhibit the symptoms were faking the illness because of a mixture of elements involving puritan life, including the ongoing frontier war, which occupied the minds with sudden and violent death, economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies. The girls would contort into grotesque poses, fall down into frozen postures and complain of biting and pinching sensations, claiming the symptoms were due to curses put on them by witches in the village. In a time and village where the perception of the devil was very close and very real, what appeared to the townspeople as the devil’s work quickly became an obsession. Justice had to be exacted.
Betty Parris and Abigail Williams soon began to name their so-called afflicters and the witch- hunt began. The fate of many soon became sealed.
This script is to be the basis for a visual and auditory explosion of moments. Being short in textual length, it is very much open to a director’s imagination, in that much of the onstage action is intertextual as well as musically and movement driven. This play is an attempt to give a basis to merge theatre and dance, visual art, music and performance art. The text is simply to be used as a core or foundation for a larger mirage of sensory images.
There are many characters in the play, but they can be performed by as few as three people or as many as twenty (or more). One actor can play Bridget Bishop, while a group of 3 or more actors can take on the many other roles, morphing into the different characters of the story (the girls, the villagers, the accused, shadows, etc.). An effective production can entail two or three men as the judges and other male roles, one or two women will as the female roles and one person as Bridget Bishop. For larger casts, it is ideal to have an ensemble or chorus that transforms into the judges, villagers, witches and other characters as well as create an atmospheric soundscape.
Year Printed: 2011
Running TIme: 75 minutes