Recently AYDs history class put on a production of “The Salem Witch Trials”. It was an in-class production, and the audience was limited to those involved in the production and a few pictures taken by the history teacher who is also the yearbook coordinator,
I have mentioned before how there are almost as many unfortunate poets as there are lovers. I have certainly counted in their number. There are far fewer unfortunate playwrights, but when life casts them as junior high school teachers they inflict tedium far in excess of what their numbers would suggest.
One reason to write a historical play is to put a spin on events. Emphasis can be placed on particular interactions to create drama or comedy. There is no shortage of characters to examine in The Salem Witch Trials, and there are many dramatic interpretations of the events of 1692 which capitalize on one or another of them. Was Tituba delusional; broken by the isolation of domestic slavery in New England after her capture and enslavement as a young girl in Barbados? Was Cotton Mather a bumbling fool who could turn torture and execution into slapstick routines? What of the young female accusers? Did they have some teenage disaffection of speech [whatever, like, y-know, really, OMG!]?
There is a school of thought that identifies acting as an effective teaching method. By acting out the parts of a particular event in history the students “live” it. The immersion can be effective. There are strong visual, tactile, auditory, and in the case of productions where costumes are re-worn by sweaty junior high students after being stored most of the year in plastic bags, olfactory stimuli not available from textbooks.
The Lamanites figure prominently in Mormon theology. Laman was a Jew who spoke reformed Egyptian. In 600 BC, with his brother Nephi and father Lehi, he built a special boat in an idyllic camp where a bubbling river flowed into the sea somewhere in what is now Saudi Arabia. Laman was mean to Nephi so god turned his skin dark, and this allowed god to tell the difference between the descendants of Laman (the Lamanites) and the descendants of Nephi (the Nephites) throughout the many struggles that comprise much of the original text in the book of Mormon.
Apparently the Lamanites, despite having forgotten reformed Egyptian, continued their nastiness into the post re-colonization of the Americas. Utah history is resplendent with examples of settlers putting the Lamanites back in line. The most famous is the Bear river Massacre of 1863. I had no idea they were being so nasty at The Salem Witch Trials 170 years earlier till I saw the pictures from AYDs class production of those events.
Now, The Salem Witch Trials are a series of events that I’m sure my readers are familiar with. They are the sort of events that people who would read a blog titled “Adult Onset Atheist” would have looked into. It is a story of religious intolerance and delusion leading to the torture and execution of innocent individuals in pre-secular America with some theoretical mixture of young girls and LSD thrown in. There are no native Americans (aka Lamanites) that figure prominently in the events.
I know that some of you who have a more finely-tuned sensitivity to description of The Salem Witch Trial events many be thinking things about Tituba which include phrases like “some historians” or “some evidence suggests”, but whatever she was she was not a local native American. AYD’s production featured almost a fifth of the cast as native Americans.
Though I did not see the production myself I know that their were many native Americans from the pictures the history teacher took. Here is an example of the native American portion of the cast from two of the three classes.
I do not know if the history teacher actually smeared the viscous colored liquid onto the boy’s chests himself, or if he had them do it to each other while he watched. I do not know if he literally ran his hands over them, but I do know that he did it figuratively. I would like to point out the slightly exaggerated image an adult male’s handprint on some of the boy’s left breast; they were also fondled symbolically.
I should admit that because AYD and AOD are girls my attention to this has been rather passive aggressive. I was given pre-yearbook photos on a CD, and I contented myself with showing them to people with a “isn’t this a bit wrong” thrown in. I thought that after the photos came out in the yearbook (and one of them did) that it would raise questions amongst concerned adults. Surely an administration that makes a point of culling girls whose skirts are half an inch short of their arbitrary standards would reign in any overt fondler, even if there was only the appearance of literal fondling.
I can picture a witch trial with the history teacher on the stand.
He is sweating. The family of one of the victims sits in the spectator area. She is a single mom in a stylishly form cut dark dress. She has her son’s hand in her’s but her eyes ore on the history teacher; they are filled with pain, disgust, and loathing.
The dashing prosecutor addresses the jury for a few moments. His back is to the stand where the history teacher sweats nervously. The prosecutor is telling the jury about decency, family values, and community standards. We hear the words “Protect our children” as he turns to the history teacher with his arm raised in an accusatory gesture.
“SO” he points at the history teacher “was it hard to get the paint to uniformly cover the boys’s nipples? Did you have to take extra time painting them? Did you do it with extra care and attention? Did you use multiple coats?”
The courtroom explodes into chaos. The judge bangs his little wooden hammer. The shifty defense attorney leaps to his feat shouting “I object, I object”.
In the confusion the history teachers eyes meet those of the attractive victim’s mother. Fear and guilt flash across the teacher’s face, and then he looks down.
Maybe I should write skits for junior high history classes. Of course I would probably work in zombies. I think there should be more theater with zombies in it. All junior high students know how to play a zombie, and after a few years the costumes would smell just right.