Supporting An Other Theater Company
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A Word from the Playwright
“When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil.”
- Malleus Maleficarum Part 1, Question VI
Understanding my role as a woman has always been a precarious balancing act: Who am I as a woman by nature vs. how was I nurtured into the woman I am now? Through the nurturing of my mother, I was taught my greatest calling as a woman was to create life. It was nature. And, in
those intimate and sacred whispers between us, I became tethered to her in a way I never had before. I was bound to her as a fellow woman, as her beloved daughter, and as a future mother to a future grandmother. Suddenly, my existence as a woman was bigger than just me. I was tethered to an infinite chain of women; women who came before me and the women who will come after I’m gone. I belonged to a calling. I had a purpose. I had a destiny.
While in graduate school, I took a seminar in Renaissance Literature, specifically looking at Shakespeare through the lens of spirituality and the supernatural. I often felt completely out of my element, being the only theatre MFA candidate in a class full of English Ph.D students. Halfway through the semester, I moderated a three-hour discussion surrounding Macbeth and Shakespeare’s use of the witches as a literary device. After making it through that nerve-wracking, though successful, midterm, I asked my professor if I could write a one-act play for my final. A play about womanhood, motherhood, and witchcraft--and how the boundaries between these three entities overlap and complicate one another. She loved the idea and presented me with the book, The Witch in History by Diane Purkiss.
While reading and researching, I came across two quotes from chapter 6, “Self-Fashioning by Women: Choosing to be a Witch.” One read:
“Being accused of witchcraft is thought to remove your identity and replace it with one that is not of your choosing. Having a reputation for witchcraft is seen as something which is done to women, not something they do.”
“Women involved with witchcraft entered vigorously into a struggle to control the meaning of their own lives.”
After reading these passages for the first time, I realized I was crying only because my cheeks were wet. It moved me, deeply. Though I’ve never been accused of witchcraft, I have been accused of sinning. I have been accused of being a flirt, and in the same breath, accused of being a prude. Sometimes, other’s voices are louder than our own. It came to a point that I believed those accusations. I believed the reputations other’s gave me. Their rumors, their jealousy, their lies, their hate. I was tethered to them, rather than to my own identity. I had been replaced. I was lost. I had been for a long time.
I vowed then and there I would enter vigorously into my struggle to control the meaning of my life. I would not be replaced by other’s words. I would own my words. I would take my power back. I would find myself.
I am honored to be tethered to the beautiful, complicated, flawed, imperfect, strange, silly, thoughtful, compassionate, regal, tough, kind, forgiving, and unapologetic women in my life. You helped me find my voice. You will continue to do so. And I owe the world to you.
What is one to do when their Integrity and Faith are at odds? Seek counsel from God? Seek counsel within? Reinforce the things they know to be true or question all there is to be believe? When someone's life hangs in the balance, whether literal or spiritual, what is one to do when their Integrity and Faith are at odds?
At one point in most people’s lives, we find ourselves questioning if the values and principles we hold are true to us or something that has been inherited. Every growing and developing person has the self-responsibility to questions what they consider...the values we have collected or were taught and the principles that uphold those values. Otherwise, we would continue in a society that is never true to the individual but only to the collective hierarchy. This story is both the tale of questioning the values you are tethered to and holding strong to the principles you live by. No matter the time period, no matter the culture, everyone is entitled to live an unfiltered truth, governed by the idea of self-acceptance and community responsibility. How we think of ourselves will be apparent in the interactions with those around us.
This show, beautifully written by Chelsea Hickman, centers the difference and intricacies of women in many facets, motherhood, love, self-responsibility, faith and integrity. I hope many will look truly at these women and their individuality before making assumptions for why they are, the way they are. Each is portrayed with intent and honesty, owed to the story telling of every kind of women, recognizable in today’s world as well as in 17th century. Good, bad, right or wrong, we must prioritize the telling of women’s stories in an un-bastardized way.
Thank you again for support An Other Theater Company. You make this art possible. If you feel so inclined please visit anothertheater.org/donate, any amount is appreciated.
Shelby Noelle Gist