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Categorized | Hartford

Colonial Witch Craze Coming to Hartford

HARTFORD — Heart-thumping tales of women and men accused, tried and convicted of witchcraft in mid 17th-century Connecticut are cast from the past into the present through a newly re-imagined staging of “The Witching Hour,” a dance-theater piece by the Ensemble of Judy Dworin Performance Project.

A free, pre-Halloween preview will be presented on Oct. 15 at noon at the Old State House, 800 Main St.

Performances of “The Witching Hour” are Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s Aetna Theater.

This historically informed work won the National Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History after its premiere in 2007. It revisits what happened in Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, Connecticut when witchcraft was punishable by death – predating by nearly half a century the notorious trials in Salem, Mass. – and when rigid Puritan authority censored the outspoken and bedeviled the herbalists, midwives and indentured servants, among others, who practiced cherished folk traditions.

Vividly depicting how fears of difference can turn dangerous, and how designating scapegoats seems to appease the hysteria of mob mentality and other social ills, “The Witching Hour” invites comparison to contemporary problems of prejudice and persecution, such as bullying, intolerance, and gender injustice.

Stories of Connecticut’s accused witches are told by the character of Katherine Harrison (performed by guest actor and dancer Lesley Farlow), which is based on a real-life Wethersfield landowner who escaped hanging through banishment. Among those stories is the first witch trial in Colonial America, resulting in the hanging of Alyse Young of Windsor in 1647 at the site where Hartford’s Old State House was built.

Larger than life size puppets by Anne Cubberly that she created for the original production, which was a collaborative venture with Connecticut Landmarks, will be seen in a lobby installation.

Dance-theater artist Judy Dworin believes that the arts can serve as a catalyst for change. In works produced by the Judy Dworin Performance Project and created by Dworin in collaboration with associate artistic director Kathy Borteck Gersten and The Ensemble, questions of history, equality, and social justice, and the potential for transformation within the individual and society at large, are thought-provokingly explored in a blend of movement, spoken word, song, and visual elements.

Judy Dworin was a 2012 honoree at the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony which celebrated women of “Voice and Vision.” That same year the Judy Dworin Performance Project received an Award of Merit from the Connecticut League of History Organizations for “In This House,” a work inspired by the history of the 1678 Joshua Hempsted House in New London. In 2010, the Judy Dworin Performance Project was presented with the Hartford Courant Tapestry Award for its efforts at bridging diverse community sectors, which includes teaching and mentoring children in the Hartford Public Schools, children of incarcerated parents, and inmates of York Correctional Institution, the state’s sole prison for women.

Ticket prices are $25, $15 for seniors and Let’s Go! Members and $10 for students. To purchase tickets call (860) 527-9800. Tickets will also be available at the door.

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