Originally Published in American Theatre
Nashville Children’s Theatre is confronting issues of gender and social repression with its production of Laurie Brooks’s Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, which runs Sept. 15-Oct. 2. Commissioned by Coterie, where it premiered in 2014, Afflicted depicts the events leading up to the Salem witch trials from the perspectives of young female accusers.
“Very little is known about the young women who made the accusations, and so it’s fascinating from an historical perspective,” says Alicia Fuss, NCT’s director of education and the production’s director. “What might have led them to make these accusations? What might have been their motive? It’s also a script that brilliantly taps into the nuances of teenage female friendship.”
Like The Nine Who Dared, Afflicted also includes a forum component, calling on the audience to help determine the story’s final outcome. “The more I worked with the script, the clearer it became to me that it’s not really a post-show forum—it’s the end of the play,” says Fuss. “Without it, the play has no falling action or resolution. My hope is that it provides a springboard for more intimate conversation between the friends and families that attend the show together. I also think that we don’t spend enough time listening to young people. In the forum, the youth are directly asked to share their ideas. Suddenly the characters they’ve been listening to for an hour are turning to them for their thoughts. That’s a very powerful framework.”
Fuss also notes how the issues facing the young women in the play have moved her to rethink adult attitudes towards children.
“As an adult, this play has pushed me to think about the restrictions and influences we place on our young people today, and what the ramifications of those might be,” she says. “I think it shows the adults in the room how very capable the youth are at thinking through both the historical event and the applications to their contemporary lives.”