Skip to content

With the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s, Mass­a­chu­setts is no stranger to witch­craft. In Vinegar Tom, how­ever, the Depart­ment of The­atre’s latest pro­duc­tion explores the theme as it fits in 17th-cen­tury Eng­land and present day.

In Vinegar Tom, play­wright Caryl Churchill uses the witch­craft scene of the 17th cen­tury to examine the effects of poverty, humil­i­a­tion, and prej­u­dice of women in par­tic­ular. Churchill wrote the play in 1976, inspired by the pas­sage of the Women’s Rights Act in the U.S. a few years prior.

Northeastern’s pro­duc­tion runs through Sunday, Nov. 20, in the Studio The­atre. For its per­for­mance, the Depart­ment of The­atre worked with a com­poser to create orig­inal, con­tem­po­rary music using Churchill’s written lyrics.

Photography by Grant Terzakis

Dario Sanchez, AMD’17, plays Jack in the play and serves as the sole accom­pa­nist for the songs.

“It’s def­i­nitely a bit of a chal­lenge to go out and do an intense scene, then run back up to my guitar on- stage to play a song that’s totally removed from the story of the play, and then jump right back into the next scene,” Sanchez said.

“It’s hard, but it’s also def­i­nitely the thing I’ve loved most about doing this show: I feel like an artist, not just a per­former, because I’ve gotten to write music to under­score large parts of the play that I’m not in, as well as inter­pret and arrange the com­po­si­tions that our music director gave to me,” he said.

Carla Mirabal, AMD’19, who plays Goody in the pro­duc­tion, said this blend of con­tem­po­rary and his­tor­ical is some­thing that drew her to the play.

“From the moment I read the play I was drawn in by how dif­ferent it is,” Mirabal said. “I love the way Caryl Churchill takes this his­tor­ical event— the witch trials in England— and com­bines it with songs that inter­rupt the story to create a uni­versal nar­ra­tive that is still absolutely rel­e­vant today.

“I find the com­men­tary she makes about how women with power are treated, and how that treat­ment could poten­tially have deadly con­se­quences incred­ibly inter­esting,” she added. “It begs the ques­tion, has society changed at all since then?”

The pro­duc­tion is per­haps all the more rel­e­vant given the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, in which the nation’s first female major party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date was defeated.

“Think of Vinegar Tom as this past elec­tion but with more accu­sa­tions of witchcraft—though not that many more,” Mirabal joked.

Tickets are avail­able for pur­chase on myNEU .edu.

This article,