Lily Janiak spoke with the team of Witch Hunt, including director Elizabeth Vega, playwright Carol S. Lashof, and actor Renee Rogoff for a Datebook feature in the SF Chronicle.
In the article, Lashof describes how the most well-known fictional account of the Salem witch panic, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, served as a “‘source of provocation'” rather than inspiration for Witch Hunt, which explores that same era in American history. Through research, Lashof learned that Miller’s classic admonishment of the McCarthy era grossly misrepresented many of its female characters. From there, she was inspired to tell the story of one of these real-life figures in our nation’s history: Tituba, an Indigenous woman from South America and slave to the Parrish family, who provided the first false confession to witchcraft. Further, Witch Hunt reveals additional layers to the era as one defined by the Purtian community’s rampant distrust and fear of Indians – putting people like Tituba and her husband John at increased risk for persecution and scapegoating.
In bringing Tituba’s story to the stage through Witch Hunt, Lashof, Vega, and Rogoff felt a special responsibility to present her life in a respectful and honest way, as past accounts have consistently failed to do so. For many Americans, the only knowledge they have of Tituba is from The Crucible, which portrays her, as Vega states, as a “‘1950s mammy'” who practiced black magic and intentionally led Puritan girls astray. Instead, “‘Witch Hunt’ gives Tituba hopes and fears, virtues and flaws. It gives her goals, and it makes her strategic in pursuit of them. In short, it makes Tituba a person,” writes Janiak.