Witch Hunt

Prick: A Play of the Scottish Witch Trials

August 24, 2023 Joshua Hutchinson Season 1 Episode 47
Witch Hunt
Prick: A Play of the Scottish Witch Trials
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Show Notes Transcript

Writer Laurie Flanigan-Hegge, director Meggie Greivell, and puppet artist Madeline Helling speak about their new play production Prick. Prick is inspired by the Witches of Scotland campaign and tells the story of folk who were victims of the terrible miscarriage of justice of the witch trials in Scotland. The story of Prick traverses magic and memory, fact and fiction, past and present. This special conversation is a reflection of the evocative, poetic, and satirical way artistic work can deliver a relevant and critical message about our history and human experience.


Prick, a new play by Laurie Flanigan Hegge, directed by Meggie Grievell

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Josh Hutchinson:

Hello, and welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson.

Sarah Jack:

And I'm Sarah Jack.

Josh Hutchinson:

Today we're here with the makers of the play Prick, which is now showing at Edinburgh Fringe. We are talking to writer Laurie Flanigan Hegge, director Meggie Greivell, and puppet artist Madeline Helling.

Sarah Jack:

Prick is a satirical play about Scottish witch trials.

Josh Hutchinson:

Features stories of three witch trial victims, including an unknown woman, Marioun Twedy, and Isobel Gowdie.

Sarah Jack:

There's difficult topics dealt with in the story, like pricking and shaving and watching of the alleged witches, and it's really an important part of understanding what thousands of women went through a few centuries ago.

Josh Hutchinson:

Puppetry is employed throughout. The art of the puppets is masterful, and how they're used in the scenes really brings life to the settings, and the puppets help make uncomfortable topics more comfortable. It's a quite enjoyable play. There's dark comedic elements to it, and it's got the devil himself.

Sarah Jack:

Laurie, Meggie, and Madeline have a great conversation with us about how this play came together, the significance.

Josh Hutchinson:

A lot of the themes of the play are very relevant today, including the ever present element of misogyny in the witch trials and in women's lives these days, also. And so you learn about the double meaning of the name Prick, why they chose that name.

Sarah Jack:

In this conversation, they share some things that you're not gonna get from just attending the play, so this is a really great opportunity to understand the layers. Here is a special conversation about Prick, which was written by Laurie, directed by Meggie, with puppets created by Madeline.

Josh Hutchinson:

What brought your creation team and performance team together?

Meggie Greivell:

So I reached out to Laurie last summer with the hopes of writing a play about the Scottish Witch Trials, because it had piqued my interest since I moved to Scotland in 2021. I found out about the North Berwick Witch Trials, and I was very shocked and angered. And I'm graduating with my master's in directing soon. And this project is my directing thesis. I needed a play that was a new work, and I reached out to Laurie, because I'd worked with her before at the History Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota. And I really loved her writing. And she said yes, she was interested in writing this play, and that's how we began. And Laurie, do you wanna take it from there?

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

It was interesting, because when Meggie asked me to do it, it was at a point where I had been, is the word fallow? When you don't have, you haven't been writing or like it, it had been a very fallow time for me, and I was just so happy to have a project to explore, but I didn't know how to get into this project at first. The subject was so huge, and once I started researching, I felt pretty daunted by kind of the scope of it and a little bit nervous about the fact that I'm an American playwright who has, at that point I hadn't been to Scotland and I didn't really understand the history. And then as things clicked along in my research, things started coming together in my brain. My introduction to this piece was through listening to modern media, which is podcasts. I was listening to your podcast and Witches of Scotland podcast and getting to know all of the amazing writers and historians and researchers through their own words. And as time went on, I got more and more immersed in the understanding of the witch trials and how things connected. And I'm still right now working on understanding what's happening in the modern world, which I was just saying, Sarah, that I had listened recently to your episode about Papua New Guinea, and it was, came for me at a very timely moment in my own understanding of just how our modern world is expressing this same horror that the women in this play lived through. But you'll notice in the play that media and the, kicking off with news of Scotland and my little kind of twisted take on that it is directly related to my relationship to media and the subject of the witch trials and the spread of witchcraft through the modern world.

Sarah Jack:

And did you guys plan on incorporating puppetry?

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, I would say right out of the gate I knew that I had the title Prick before I had anything else. When I heard about witch prickers I was, I said,"Meggie, I'd like to call it Prick." And she said,"yes, please do." And I knew that I wanted pricking and the pricker to be a theme of the play but that I did not want to ask any actor or audience member to be subjected to seeing any kind of torture or harm inflicted on a body on stage. And so from the gate, I said, I'd like to incorporate puppets. And by the way, my neighbor across the street is a puppet artist that I've been dying to work with. That's Madeline Helling. She's with us today. And I told Meggie I wanted to use puppets. She gave me a wholehearted endorsement and Madeline was immediately part of the process. Madeline, do you wanna say anything about that?

Madeline:

Oh yeah, just Laurie said,"I have this project, it's about the witch trials." And I, yeah, it was an easy yes, easy thing to say yes to. The theme and working with Laurie and then doing this in Scotland was very exciting. Yeah, and Minneapolis is a really vibrant puppet community, so I've had a lot of amazing experience working with a lot of amazing people here. That helped me gain some skills to do that.

Josh Hutchinson:

That's interesting. I didn't know that about Minneapolis.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, it's a hotbed actually. There's a large puppet community and the, so the vocabulary of using puppets is something that I'm really familiar with as a theater artist, and I think, because of that vocabulary, and Meggie has lived in the Twin Cities too. We know, we all understand like what a puppet can mean in terms of emotion and how evocative a puppet can be. It's like a musical element. Does that jive with what you would say, Madeline, that there's a lyricism to using puppets?

Madeline:

Yeah, I think it's just a language understood the world over and it's a street language that like, it's just, it's a cheap art form that is, there's roots in it all over the world. And in that way it has this sort of universality to it. And there's this way that puppets, like everything they do has to be articulated. And in that way it can draw a little more focus and attention on certain elements, physical elements like breath is an action in a purposeful way, which is, I feel like for this play, for Prick it makes so much sense to have puppets in it.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

We also wanted to incorporate aspects of the world, of the other world, the familiars. and. When I said to Madeline,"I'd like a fox, a jackdaw," immediately that was possible and shape-shifting is possible. And it did organically change. My first draft, I think, Meggie, I said that there were puppets attached to bodies on stage, and that was just my first thought about it. And it evolved into the design that Madeline brought to us. But yeah, Meggie, I don't know. What did you think when I said puppets right away? You never seemed to fight that.

Meggie Greivell:

I jumped right in. I was gonna say puppets are also having, I think, a golden age in theater right now. In the UK they are, I think in the US they are, too. But in the UK, especially, with shows like a Warhorse that was, took over the West End and the Life of Pi right now has just won so many Tony Awards. The puppet artists and the tiger won a Tony Award. It was the first ever puppeteers to win a Tony Award, the seven actors that play the tiger. I'd never done it before, and I thought this sounds like a great opportunity to learn and for all of the student actors to learn, as well. And also I knew that it would help tell our story that we wanna tell, especially with The Accused puppet and not wanting to show a woman being tortured on stage. But also The Accused has become this really powerful symbol for women not having control over their own bodies during the witch trials. And I think puppets bring magic to the theater. Like they belong in the theater and on the street, as you say, Madeline.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

It's interesting that we discovered the disassociation that people experience when they're experiencing trauma is personified by having the characters in our play talking about what happens. But it's embodied by The Accused, our puppet that we call The Accused. And so that was a very organic discovery that felt totally right. When we observed what that disassociation looked like on stage, it felt, like, oh my gosh, yes. It just felt really central to the whole premise of the piece. And we were working really quickly in conceiving and creating this piece. It was a beautiful discovery that felt completely in alignment with what we were trying to do with the piece.

Meggie Greivell:

And all of the audiences have been responding really strongly to all the puppets, and they understand the symbolism of The Accused immediately. We've had really, really powerful responses about that and the familiar puppets as well.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

So in the piece we have three different women who are called into what we call a liminal space, and when they get there, they are conjured into the space by the ensemble, and they are facing off with the pricker character. And in that space, The Accused appears. And so when the women are conjured and they are representing their own, this kind of core character, The Accused is with them.

Meggie Greivell:

The Accused represents all three of the women, but also each of them individually, as well.

Josh Hutchinson:

Can you talk about what pricking is?

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

ah, pricking.

Meggie Greivell:

Yes. So pricking in Scotland during the Witch Craft Act, there were witch prickers who were employed to prick and torture the women. So there, there actually were witch prickers. But the play also has a beautiful double entendre. Pricking symbolizes women being pricked with misogyny, as well.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

So the witch picker would use an instrument or a tool to search for a spot on the woman's body that wouldn't bleed. Witch prickers weren't part of every single trial, but they came and went in the Scottish Witch Trials, and they were sometimes charlatans, brutal. Women would be shaved, stripped, and searched and pricked with an iron rod, looking for a place on their body that wouldn't bleed. And if it was found or falsely found, it was stated that was where the devil's mark was.

Meggie Greivell:

And they were paid very well to do this, and they're very respected in the community.

Josh Hutchinson:

I would say for our audience, a similar thing happened when they would have a group of women, a jury of women search a female suspect the body looking for witches' teets. That's what they were looking for at Salem and other American trials, and they didn't use the torture method of pricking along, but if they found an insensitive place, sometimes they would stick a needle through it to see if it drained any fluid. And yeah, they would just check for insensitive locations that stood out as unusual.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

To think that a person would be touched in this way. And I, I think it's interesting that prickers in Scotland and the witch trials had their eras. It wasn't consistent throughout, but prickers would show up. One of the characters in our play, Marion Twedy was pricked and actually that I found her in the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database. And it so happens that she had two really interesting, compelling things about her case, one that she was pricked and one that she never confessed. But in her pricking, they did discover the devil's mark. We don't know what that was, but we know that she was pricked and that without a confession, the mark that was found on her was enough to end her life.

Josh Hutchinson:

Terrible. We, Sarah and I have ancestors who were examined that way in the Salem witch trials, not with the pricking but with the close inspection of their secret parts. And teets were found, and they said,"get some more experienced women over here." But for the pricking, it's just extremely invasive and misogynist to have a man doing that to a woman. That just is so brutal. I can hardly imagine it.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

The fact that sometimes the pricking instrument was a fake instrument that was enough to condemn a woman was that's not something we addressed in Prick. There was a lot I couldn't address just because the play is a one act play, but it did give a character a line,"you're pricking me now with every word," and to me that is that is the thread that Meggie was talking about earlier about the misogyny piece. Not every woman was pricked, but we all know what it feels like to be pricked in some way. And I'm not suggesting that the kind of pricking that these women underwent was in any way comparable to the pricks I felt in my life, because it's not the same, but that kind of image is resonant for all of us, I think.

Sarah Jack:

Absolutely.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

I asked Madeline to create different size prickers, too, so that each character is met with an instrument that gets bigger and bigger as the piece proceeds. So it starts out as a normal size, and then she plays with scale. So by the end, we see that this pricker is like the boogeyman is holding this pricker, and it's a little bit more universal.

Josh Hutchinson:

Such a powerful image.

Madeline:

And you just wonder at one point the person instigating or physically doing the harm disassociate themselves. So when we were like working through that piece in the show, that pricking object, like we just worked with the power that object held a bit, which was an, I dunno, it's just an interesting exercise, those elements and objects of torture.

Josh Hutchinson:

It's amazing to me that anybody made it through without confessing.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Zoe and Claire on the Witches of Scotland podcast, they talk about that a lot and the whole thing about Scotland doesn't torture. It's like there was no torture in Scotland. It's just such a ridiculous thing to suggest that's not torture. I would've confessed for sure I wouldn't have been able to take that pain. That's how I think. Maybe I'm wrong, but.

Meggie Greivell:

And Marion Twedy, did you, I can't remember if you said this earlier, but the character, Marion, our play, she did not confess, and we have that in the play. She's one of the women who did not confess, which is just so unimaginable to think about that.

Josh Hutchinson:

Yeah, we have cases where the interrogation itself was intimidating enough to get a confession without the added physical duress, and it's just a marvel to me that anybody got through that process and even lived to be tried.

Sarah Jack:

Does the play open with a strong start or do you ease the audience into things?

Meggie Greivell:

I would say it opens with a strong start.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

It opens with it well, some audience members have described it as a chant or an incantation. But it starts with a list of communities around Scotland and one of our actors, she's from the Isle of Skye, and she said,"oh, this sounds like a walking song," and she came up with the song to go along with it. So it comes across as this really beautiful kind of chant, and then it's followed by an incantation welcoming the women into the space.

Meggie Greivell:

It's a very haunting song. And we were using, Laurie wrote a heartbeat into the script and we organically discovered this, I found this very large stick at a store called Pound Savers, which is like the dollar store. And in the rehearsal room we discovered that it made a really great heartbeat sound, and that's in the song and throughout the play, as well. But it's become a symbol as well for a broomstick, as well as other types of domestic things, like a butter churn. And we also learned this was a happy discovery, coincidence, but also works really well with the play that in Scotland, a lot of the ministers and commissioners that were involved in the trials, they used questioning sticks. In the opening song, it sounds almost like a sea shanty or like this haunting folk song. And Laurie's written all these really beautiful words and incorporated in the Scottish cities where the witch trials happened into the song.

Josh Hutchinson:

What stood out to me about the opening song is just how long the list of those cities is, the communities where witch trials happened. It's dozens of places.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

And yet it's still not comprehensive, right? That was my fear. What did I leave out? And even now as I'm talking about things that are happening, as I'm trying to wrap my mind about where things are happening in the world, I feel like, again, not comprehensive to understand where modern witch hunts are happening. Just everywhere yet in between is how I got through that as a writer.

Meggie Greivell:

And that's one of the lyrics in the song as well.

Josh Hutchinson:

You talked about one of the women who's a victim who's in the play. Who are the other main characters whose story's being told?

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

The first is an unknown woman, which was very intentional. I was really struck by the sundry witches and all the people whose names are lost. And so she was really the first woman to be conjured in my mind and also to be conjured into this world of this play. And she doesn't know who she is, which is part of her journey. She arrives in on the scene and is confused. She's come back, because she's looking for her baby, her bairn, and doesn't find her baby there. And she tries to leave, and they pull her back in. And we call her the unknown woman. She's an individual, but she represents many of the sundry witches who have no stone, no memorial, and no way of knowing who they are, erased by time.

Meggie Greivell:

And Laurie writes very beautifully into the unknown woman's language that she has no stone. That's a through line throughout all of her scene.

Sarah Jack:

So many elements of this work are just so incredible. I was so thrilled to see this aspect that you put into the story, because the unnamed, for the reasons that you just mentioned, but there's so many we don't know their name. You think about like with this specific unnamed woman, she didn't know who she was. It's so striking, because before they're accused and examined, these women felt very confident, possibly some did, from testimonies you read, they're confident they're not a witch, they're confident that they're clear before God. And there's other historical unnamed individuals that are memorialized. And then I think of when we were working on our exoneration legislation in Connecticut this past year. There is an unnamed person in some records, but the politicians didn't include it in the final draft that individual who could have represented so many, who could have been a symbol for these women like your unnamed is, she was removed from that legislation, and that was so disappointing to me. I am so thrilled to see that a part of your message.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

That's heartbreaking. The fact that we don't know who she was doesn't change the fact that she existed. I think this is what's so important about memorialization, too, is that marking someone's life acknowledges, it's like how we all wanna feel seen, right? I wanna feel seen. You wanna feel seen. To be unseen and to be invisible is another insult. And then for, I think for these women who were Christian women, to not be given a Christian burial, at least in their own understanding of the world as they know it, they're not seen in the world, in the afterlife, in the way that they wanted to be seen. That's an aspect for her, too, that she's stuck in purgatory or whatever it is, the liminal space.

Meggie Greivell:

And Laurie used the Scottish Witchcraft database to get information for the three accused women in the play. And we learned that there are thousands of unnamed in the records here. So it's a lot really.

Josh Hutchinson:

I found the line in the play about the and sundry witches were killed so powerful, because it shows how little these women were valued. You don't even deserve to have a name, like you're just erased entirely.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, I think we included the definition. Our version of this play has three men who play various roles, and then three women who play various roles, plus each having their own individual women. But the chorus of men says sundry witches confessed. And one of the women says,"sundry: definition, various items not important enough to be mentioned individually." And that's what it comes down to. It's you're not important enough for us to know who you were.

Josh Hutchinson:

Yeah. Our listeners here will be familiar with a lot of the women who are just known as Goodwife or Goody, because their first name, nobody bothered to record that. They just recorded that they were the wife of so-and-so and the man mattered, but the woman who was the actual target, her name didn't matter. So yeah, it's very moving.

Sarah Jack:

I also think it's a recognition of the modern victims that we're just getting to know. We know of such a small fraction of the individual cases. So here today, there are unnamed victims.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, and I think it's hard for people when you don't have a name or a story to attach to something to actually hang their understanding on what happened. If it's oh, this woman, this happened to this woman or these women, versus knowing the names of people who are going through this trauma, that's a completely different thing. It's like a personification in a way. Sundry objectifies people. It makes them into just another witch, when it's an individual who has a story and a life and a history and a family and a living, breathing identity.

Madeline:

It is incredible the power that language has here in dehumanizing. That's actually like what my college thesis was about, our language and use of the words torture and terrorism around like torture tactics used, created by the US government, used in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. And dehumanization that happens to each of those individuals and the things that are defined as torture and those that are not, and those are, that are defined politically and have ramifications of teeth attached to them. It's really interesting what happens when certain words are attached to things and then a whole people become numb to the realities of what that means, of the people behind those things, or the victims.

Josh Hutchinson:

And there's more than just the pricking in the play. There's also the watching, which was another form of torture. Can you talk to us a little about the watching?

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

That's really interesting, because one of the things that we discovered in the writing of the piece was that the cast was really interested in kind of understanding what it meant to be watching, too. And you may have noticed that a character who is just a general farmer becomes a watcher, and he has this really beautiful arc throughout the piece. That's, those are his words. He was talking about how he felt about playing this role, that his character had an arc. He went from being an accuser to a watcher to the spouse of a victim and essentially a nonbeliever at the end in God or the devil. But that watching piece, people were paid to watch women, keep them awake, keep them from falling asleep. Sleep deprivation was a a form of getting a confession, and they, the people who were, the women and their families were paying for the candles that the watchers were using. They were paying the salaries of the watchers. This is another weird aspect of the economics of it, is that it got turned back to the families at the end. You, this is your bill for what your witch costs our community. You were just asking about the watchers, but it's a bigger answer. We were really curious about what it was like to be responsible for inflicting this on someone else. Our watcher walks into the room and sees his wife in a witch's bridal, which was a way of keeping a woman awake, keeping her tongue from being able to talk and a terrible torture device. And that's bridal is on our puppet, the accused. And I think people respond to that in a way that's really shocked. Even though you know it's not on a person. It's very evocative.

Josh Hutchinson:

So the watching we're talking about, you would sit a woman in the middle of a room and have somebody keep them awake for days on end, and they're looking to see if a familiar or imp comes to feed while they're watching, so the witnesses can confirm that the suspect has had a contract with the devil. And they did that also in England. Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, is known for doing that. And there's at least one case in New England that's documented of Margaret Jones of Charlestown. She was watched in this way. But in your play, I know the characters are awake for untold hours and days, and at that point, you're just delirious, and who knows what you're seeing even to get a confession out of you at that point, doesn't seem like it might be the most accurate confession that you're gonna get, but it's what they wanted to hear is what the person would say.

Madeline:

Important to note that in Scotland at the time, torture was illegal and known to produce inaccurate information. So there was that piece of recognition there, on the books in Scotland as the official way of the land. And then the reality of the witch trial.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

And what do they say? It takes 48 hours before you start hallucinating when you're sleep deprived. Or I hope I'm getting that when I was just in Edinburgh last week, somebody was talking about that, that you are not a reliable witness after being awake for 48 hours. And there is records of a lot of these people being kept awake for days at a time, like you said. I took the perspective that a person who was kept awake like this would do anything to make it stop. That is part of this piece, as you mentioned, but it's a thread that goes through every single trial that we read about the sleep deprivation.

Meggie Greivell:

And it was often the accused family members or friends or neighbors who were doing the watching, which I find like just so incredibly harrowing. That's with all of the witch trials. I know that was something that happened where neighbors had to be complacent, and that's the something that just really disturbs me so much, and I think Laurie wrote that so beautifully.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

These really small communities, everybody knows each other, right? They're accusing people they know, they're watching people they know, and they're executing people they know.

Meggie Greivell:

Yeah.

Josh Hutchinson:

And you do see that with the modern day witchcraft persecutions, as well. The accusation often comes from within the family, and it's just so extra tragic that it's somebody that you know and you trust turns against you.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

The third woman that's conjured into our space is probably the most famous of all the Scottish witches, Isobel Gowdie. And she was the last character to come to me. What we love about Isobel Gowdie is how much agency she has in her confessions, or seems to have in her confessions and what she means to people now, that she represents somebody with power. And as we were creating this piece, Meggie asked for a powerful character to come into the, this realm. And she was the obvious choice. I wanted to be really careful about how I present her, because I know she has so much meaning to so many people, right? And there's a lot that's unknown about her, but her confessions are long and interesting and curious and awesome in a way. They're just such interesting documents, but we really don't know how she got to those confessions. We don't know if she was pricked or not. There was a pricker in the area, and yet there's no record of the pricker being part of her trial. There's nothing sure about whether she was watched or kept awake. We don't have that information, but we know what she said and it's so interesting. So she was fun to write, and she's, I think Lisa McIntyre, who plays her in this production, really enjoys the power and the fact that she's a bit of a baddy. She gets to speak truth to power and own her own story in a way that the other characters don't, Isobel.

Meggie Greivell:

Laurie and I talked about how we made the choice to give her power back because Laurie was saying, we don't, nobody knows why she said all things that she said, or if it was really just the ministers and the investigators putting words into her mouth or making these things up or if it was from sleep deprivation. But we've made the decision to have her kind of take her power back and say,"no, I did do these things. I did turn into a jackdaw and attacked the pricker."

Josh Hutchinson:

What are some of the other things that she confessed to?

Meggie Greivell:

Part of it though, is she did turn into a lot of different animals.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

She did say she did a lot of shape shifting. So Isobel Gowdie, her confessions are pretty remarkable. She says things across a huge gamut, like she's confessed to mixing the body of an unchristian child with nail trimmings, grain, and colewort. I'm reading this right now from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, but she said she chopped it all up and used it to take away the fruit of a man's corn. Just think about that, chopping up unchristian child with nail clippings. It's ah this flying in a straw broom was a thread that we see the witch on a straw broom. That was a, an Isobel Gowdie kind of a one of her biggies. She talked about elf shot. She would fly around and use elf shot, flick it with her thumb, and kill people to send a soul to heaven, but the body remained on Earth, according to her confessions. Talked about meeting the queen of the fairies, taking away milk, doing things in the devil's name. She said she um, destroyed, let's see, she made an image of the laird of Park to destroy his children, and she went into great detail about how she did this. She confessed a lot to shape changing jackdaws, cat, hare, and we really play with that shape changing aspect in our show. I could go on and on, but she's got a lot of really specific things. And she had four, I think four sets of interviews or interrogations, and she got more and more specific with each one.

Sarah Jack:

I was thinking about some of the New England witch trials, and there's actually some of the afflicted girls either in Connecticut or in Massachusetts had very detailed accusations. I don't know if there's anything quite that detail coming out of New England in the record from an accused.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, incredibly detailed. She talked about her specific ritual acts, shape changing, using magic, things she did at the Kirk of Auldearn, communal sex with the devil. That was one. He had sex with her whole coven. And meeting and dancing with her coven. She talked about the fairies. She hit the greatest hits of everything. And she gave them all the information that they wanted to have. She explicitly said that the devil rebaptized her as Janet, that she had sex with him, and that his member was great and long, and that younger women had greater pleasure in sex with the devil than with their own husbands. The idea of sex with the devil was really important to the Scottish witch trial confession logs that they would put together. And we also play with that a little bit in our show, that whole thing of this obsession with sex, which is fascinating to me, but also just strange.

Sarah Jack:

We learned of some of that this fall when we talked to Mary Craig, that was really where I was introduced to what a big part of that history it is.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Your interview with Mary Craig was one of my favorite interviews. She was a great resource.

Sarah Jack:

You had a couple lines that the devil said that I loved, and the first is,"I get the credit and I don't have to do any of the work." And I also, I thought it sounded just like him to say,"I've been here a while. You were nay paying me mind."

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

It was fun to write for the devil. It was fun to write that character. And I have to be reminded that for in this world, that the devil was absolutely real. The fact that I personally don't believe that the devil exists doesn't matter. These characters believed that the devil existed, and it was a great and real threat. And that's the first thing that when I'm talking to modern people about this play, that they're like,"oh, really?" But the devil was a threat.

Josh Hutchinson:

They didn't just believe in the devil. They believed that he was roaming around physically as a person and luring people over to his side to sign contracts with them, which I found interesting in the symbolism in Scotland of someone becoming the devil's with the touching of the head and the foot. I found that to be very interesting also.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

And claiming everything in between.

Josh Hutchinson:

Yes.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, I believe that was in Isobel's confession, as well, if I'm not mistaken.

Josh Hutchinson:

I think that I read that in that scene. Where she says she's be been baptized as Janet. Yeah. Which I love the Janet and Janet show, because those names, I've listened to all of Witches of Scotland, and Janet and Jonet just come up again and again in the Scottish witch trials.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, that's where I got that. And it was also a happy accident that our actor who plays Janet in the Janet and Janet scene plays Isobel Gowdie and says,"no, I am Janet. You'll call me Janet." And so that was just another kind of discovery of another added layer of something cool.

Josh Hutchinson:

Another theme in there is the labeling of women as quarrelsome dames. And you took that from the reality.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

There was a lot to mine. And I think that as a woman of my time, I relate to that a lot. And as I get older and feel like, yeah, I'm gonna take up as much space as I want in this world, I see how some people respond to that. We take the quarrelsome dame mantle pretty proudly. Would you say Meggie?

Meggie Greivell:

Definitely, we are quarrelsome dames.

Josh Hutchinson:

Yay.

Meggie Greivell:

embrace it.

Josh Hutchinson:

Yeah. I'm so happy to hear that.

Meggie Greivell:

I think, yeah, as women, we've all experienced times where we've been told that we're too loud, too rude, too bossy, too something. That's an aspect right there that we still have so far to come with in terms of misogyny. The accused women were called quarrelsome dames then, and now we're just called something else.

Josh Hutchinson:

Now we see a lot with women politicians still getting labeled as witch.

Meggie Greivell:

Yes, definitely like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren and here in Scotland no, Nicole Sturgeon, the former Prime Minister of Scotland. She has been called a witch several times.

Josh Hutchinson:

I've seen some of that, and it's just very inappropriate. It feels like men feel threatened when a woman comes into her power and can't just share responsibilities with women. You gotta feel threatened. They're taking over your job or something, but they're not, so chill out dudes.

Meggie Greivell:

Exactly. As a female director, I've encountered that over my career, as well, with being in a position of power in what is still male-dominated industry. Some pushback definitely.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

It is interesting to write a piece that's like blatantly naming what most women agree is an experience of being responded to or being pricked by misogyny. It's interesting to encounter what that's like for an audience member who doesn't feel comfortable with that. I think that I'm comfortable with someone being uncomfortable with this piece. And part of the reason why I infuse comedy or dark comedy into a subject like this is because that's one way that I can acknowledge that this is a I, we all know what we're seeing here, right? We know what we're seeing. We're getting what we're seeing here. And it's just a way of acknowledging something that but just putting it into a vessel of communicating that is not a victimized place. That's a more of a an owning the power of what it means to be having this conversation at all.

Madeline:

I think the way you wrote it, Laurie, with the kind of time shifts to the modern platform with like comedic elements allows us to take in the gravity of the reality of the situation. And I feel like in many ways, like comedy, is it the element of that is necessary in this piece. It's not like we're just diving into some disaster tourism situation, like we're getting into something that's relevant and related to now, and you give like those little plant the seeds so people are making connections. So like why does addressing this thing that happened a long time ago matter now, and how is it still happening, and what are the ways that even in the same place, even in, how is that still showing up? Because all of those pieces are still very much alive. And then there are other places in the world where like the reality perhaps even looks similar. But there's also that piece where like this history is a part of our history. And yeah, I feel like it makes it more accessible in a way to have the juxtaposition of that, of the conversation going on, like within the piece.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Madeline, something you just said about the disaster aspect. Like I didn't, that's another thing I didn't want, I didn't want it to be torture porn. That's a terrible word, but I didn't want everybody, everyone to come and see a piece that lives in a place where women are being harmed for an hour or more. That color and that kind of gut punch, that's not interesting, and it's abusive. It's an abusive thing to do. I wanted people to be able to come in and out of this space and our characters and their cast to be able to come in and out of this space, have a conversation that needs to be had, raise a voice that needs to be raised, and by the grace of something, let them exit that space and move, shift into something else. And that, again, was a discovery along the way. But I felt it was important to lean into that as it was unveiling itself to us in the process. And our cast is doing a great job of navigating the kind of different colors of this piece. It's hard to describe, though. It's hard to explain, a piece about witch trials that has comedy in it. It seems a little hard to explain, but.

Meggie Greivell:

The piece really does lift up all of the women and gives them their voice back. And I think that is the most powerful part of this. And the last word in the play that Laurie wrote is,"and the rage." So we have that whole aspect of it. It's giving the voices back to these women.

Madeline:

Also wanna add that in the process, like the week that we were over there, Laurie and I were over there working with actors. She was like,"I want you guys to tap into this and then I want you to tap out, like physically, do hands up. Okay, I'm getting into this role. I'm putting this on for a moment. But we're not like doing this to each other. This is we're agreeing right now." There was just this like little element of consent exercise that happened, like for the actors. It was like this facilitated thing that was, it was just nice to come in and out like that as a cohort.

Sarah Jack:

I just think undertaking this topic as a visual and audible presentation. It is such a layered undertaking, just like the history is, and you used the word unveiling. It's an opportunity to unveil what we can't get everybody to acknowledge. I just keep thinking about the complexity of the reality, but then also, when I was reading through the script, there's just, all, Meggie said the double entendres, and then the iconic symbolisms, and you even got an apple in there with the devil, and the catchphrases, but then the puppetry and everything about it was just, I think it's such a remarkable piece of art. And thanks for putting it out there. It's important. It's so important.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

I really appreciate that. I was really nervous about kind of the tone shifts right out of the gate, and so I really appreciate that feedback. And if something didn't work, I would wanna know that too, right? Because I feel like this subject and these people and just the larger conversation needs to be right, like the history needs to be correct. The level of respect needs to be correct, and I'm serving a bigger thing, which is why I'm so pleased to be working on this project.

Sarah Jack:

I was gonna add, too, that whole comedy element, it's in the history. There's so many times where we're looking at these dispositions or different things we can read that were happening or people were saying, and you just are like, this can't even be real. It's sadly hysterical, and so I think that's a really great thread to be able to weave in to the storytelling, too, like you did.

Meggie Greivell:

It was all so much about fake news being spread around, which Laurie has written that in so well into the play, as that's so relevant today.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Honestly it was my, weirdly my way into this piece,'cause I would say, I don't know how I'm gonna get into this piece, I don't know what my way in, I don't know what my way in is. And then it was, fake news. I was like, that to me, that was the hook that got me started writing in the first place. I typically write musical theater pieces, and so when it came to the monologues that the women were doing, I didn't really know what to do. So I said, okay, I'm gonna treat this like it's a lyric. And if I were writing a lyric, I would just be brain draining all of my ideas about things that could be in a lyric. And then I would take that kind of dump of writing and find kernels inside of it to craft into a lyric. But I approached it in that way and I realized, oh no, this is the same approach, like they are having this moment of expression that is simply for their a mining of their emotional life at this moment of time when they're being when they're being interrogated. And it It felt the same to me as a song moment where it was, we call it sometimes in, in crafting musicals, theater, in crafting songs, a vertical expression instead of a long horizontal line. It's what is your thought? We're gonna go deeply into this thought. And for me, it had a lyrical element in working it. And I think that's what I love about working with the puppets, too, is that the puppets to me have a lyrical element, too, because their movement is so expressive, and it's like the actors are singing the puppets alive.

Madeline:

I'm curious now. I haven't seen the script in a long time and probably haven't seen the things until it was like puppet does something here. And then Laurie would come to me and be like,"so what can I do?" So it was fun, I was building even as we got to Scotland and was building the week that we had with the actors. I'm curious what it says now when you're reading it, Sarah, because I'm like, oh, that, like we developed those things together and like we didn't really know what it was capable of until we're like figuring out what it's capable of doing. Yeah, just a funny curiosity thinking like, how does that look on paper now?

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

I don't think I changed it in the script. I think the script just says,"the fox comes through" or that, yeah. But to Madeline's point about working collaboratively, I knew who the cast was before I had written a word of the play. So I was setting this piece onto this cast, and I was writing for the actors that I had, which is a really a luxury when you're a playwright to be able to write for actors that you know who they are. It's the best case scenario, I think. Madeline built The Accused, this woman puppet, which is gorgeous. And she built a fox, a cat, a jackdaw, and then a flock of jackdaws, a flock of 13 jackdaws. And the script, it just says that they sweep through, and some actors use them throughout the entire play, and they're just beautiful.

Sarah Jack:

I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to read something from the script.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

Yeah, I'd love to. Would you like to hear the Unknown Woman or from Marion Twedy?

Josh Hutchinson:

I vote for Unknown.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

This is an excerpt from the Unknown Woman. So in this monologue, by the time we get to this place, she's realized that there's no stone. No one knows who she is. She's been wiped off the face of the earth, for all practical purposes. She explains that she understands why she was accused, that she doesn't blame her accuser, but that she didn't do what she had been accused of. And she's completely vulnerable at this point. So we hear the crescendo of a heartbeat, and she's alone."Let me die, I think. I will tell them whatever it is they want to hear. If only I can get some rest. Only, but there is no rest for the wicked, they say. Am I wicked? I was baptized. I'm a Christian. My bairn was baptized, had a Christian burial. How did it come to this? I'll tell them whatever it is they want to hear, I'll tell them, yes, no, whatever I'm supposed to say to make this nightmare end so I can sleep, so I can hold my bairn again. But there is no rest for the wicked. Let me die, I think. I want to die. I think. I think I'm dead, for here I am here in this purgatory. Is this purgatory or is this someplace worse? Some kind of purgatory with no hope of escape? Is this hell? There's no rest here, no bairn, no breath. I do not lay in consecrated ground. I have no stone. Ah, that explains it. That explains why nobody visits me. Nobody comes to weep or laugh or make a pencil rub or write a poem or mark a holiday. Will I my soul, will my soul ever be allowed to be at peace? Will I ever hold my bairn again? You damned me to an eternity of what, what you damned yourself, they said. How? How? I made a charm the way my mother taught me, the way her mother taught her, the way her mother taught her. They said I danced with the devil. If I did dance, that's all I did, dance. I don't know what I did. I don't know anything anymore." I didn't use Scottish dialect. I'm not gonna pretend to be Carys Turner, the beautiful performer who does that in our play.

Josh Hutchinson:

Thank you so much.

Sarah Jack:

Thank you so much.

Josh Hutchinson:

Wonderful. I just want to talk for a moment about how people can see the play. Can you tell us about how it's playing right now and any future plans that you have?

Meggie Greivell:

Yes, so it's right now we are on until the 25th at the Space on the Mile at 11:15 AM on odd days. We are hoping, really hoping, that it gets picked up for a tour in the UK and Scotland. We've had a few producers, so fingers crossed on that. And it will be filmed professionally on the 21st, so we will have it archived, and so we will have a film version of it, and we hope to bring it to the US, as well. Laurie hopes to bring it to the US, as well. So we just are right now, our fingers are just crossed that we can get it on a tour.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

If anybody's interested in reading the play to produce a version of it, feel free to reach out to me, and I'd be happy to send a copy of the script.

Josh Hutchinson:

It's such a powerful story that needs to be told. So I wish you all the best of luck getting it picked up for tours. It's so good to give voices to the voiceless. So that's something that we want to do with the podcast, as well, is tell the stories of these people, even the unknown person that Sarah was talking about earlier, they need their story told. So I think you, I think that theater is an excellent way to introduce the story to audiences.

Sarah Jack:

Is there anything else you wanted to be able to express today?

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

The people who were prickers were individuals, and in our world they're represented by this kind of boogeyman character who's a pricker, not a specific individual.

Meggie Greivell:

And he represents all of the men of the time who are abusing their power.

Madeline:

I maybe wanna add that there was a lot of deliberation that kind of went into landing on doing one woman puppet, and we talked about making specific puppets for each of the actresses, of their like particular faces, sculpting off of their pictures. And yeah, it was just a vibrant conversation and we landed on this, but in a way also just thinking about honoring the larger experience, I think landing on one woman.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

I would say that people respond to seeing that one puppet as a very universal creation and see themselves in it. I the feedback that we've gotten from people is that was the right thing and that it really is very resonant. I also wanna say that this piece is still alive, right? So it was created super collaboratively and quickly and generously by all of the collaborators that were involved. Meggie brought the idea, Madeline was part of it from the very beginning, and the students gave us a lot of feedback in the process of writing. First time that they saw a script, it was just the first 30 pages. That was the first time we said,"okay, how do we feel about these tone shifts? How do we feel about the fact that it moves through time and space?" And we were all in agreement. As I went forward writing pages for them about what that would look like, they would come back to me and say,"we wish that the devil would come back.""Okay, what does that look like?""We wanna see King James again.""What does that look like?""What if the watcher in the next scene is the farmer watching his wife?""Oh, that's a great idea. Let me see what that looks like." So those, and it's still a new work and I suspect that the next production will have edits, like a new play does when it goes into another iteration. So I'm really excited to see how this play continues to grow. And I would say that if anybody does wanna do this piece, that they should hunt down Madeline Helling to work on the puppets with them.

Madeline:

Well, and I'll say too on that note, like there was a lot of changes. She'd be like,"oh, I met with the cast. So this whole part has changed." Like every time there was like a Zoom, there was like both of you could attest that there were many changes that were made. So on my end I kept being like,"okay, you're not ready for that part, so I'm just gonna hold off or build this thing and then change it." And just given our time constraint and like what I needed to craft, it was like, okay, I'm just, I was just like crafting at a pace that went with the ebb and flow.

Laurie Flangian-Hegge:

I'm just grateful to Meggie for having this idea and bringing it, she, she actually, when she first in invited me to this piece, she said,"I just got back from having dinner at The Witchery." There's this restaurant called The Witchery in Edinburgh. It's a fancy, beautiful restaurant, but she said it's a restaurant called The Witchery on the grounds, essentially of where the witches were burned. And that felt off to you, would you say, Meggie? That felt.

Meggie Greivell:

Yeah, that's how this all started. The first time I went to North Berwick too, when I'd never been there before, and I learned about the North Berwick witch trials, and I was completely floored and disgusted. There was just a tiny little plaque in this old church by the sea about it, but nothing else. And then from there I kept getting even more enraged. Like Laurie said, I went to The Witchery and my family, and it's this beautiful restaurant with exquisite dining options. But yeah it's where the witches, the women were burned. Not the witches. The women, or the women were burned. And I also went on a tour, a ghost tour about a few months before I approached Laurie, and they pulled out thumbscrews that they, I replicated thumbscrews. I don't think they were real. And they took, were asking for volunteers to put them on, and I think they put them on me, and everyone was laughing and I was just disgusted this isn't funny but that's a problem with Edinburgh. It's very exploitative of the witch trials and I know it's like that in Salem, as well. I just thought this is a story that needs to be told, and theater is what I do, so that is going to be the medium for it. And I reached out to Laurie on a whim, and I got lucky.

Sarah Jack:

And now for a minute with Mary.

Mary Bingham:

Recently I suffered a situation which resulted in my feeling anxious, heartbroken, and most sadly not wanted. Luckily, I have a wonderful community of family, friends, and social services in which I can tap into if needed until I get back on my feet. I am grateful. This is not the situation for those women of Ghana accused of witchcraft. They are accused for causing sickness to their neighbors, weather conditions to cause crop failures, among other things. Those women who are not beaten and burned alive for this crime they did not commit, were sent to one of six witch camps where their living situations were abhorrent at best. I cannot begin even to fathom their feelings of total abandonment and betrayal at the hands of their neighbors and family members. Yes, family members. I shouldn't complain. I will survive. Some of these women will not, but there is hope. In 2005, ActionAid started to infiltrate these camps with basic life necessities. The advocates also educated these women and children, informing the women of their rights. In 2011, the women were thus able to stop the Ghana government from closing the camps the following year. Quick closure could result in homelessness and possibly death by those wanting these innocent human beings dead. They spoke loud and strong using every media and social service at their disposal, increasing benefits for themselves to survive. For me, I look forward to the day when my living situation improves. However, I look more towards these women who survive circumstances I will never understand. They are the heroes along with the advocates who risk their lives to save the many for whom they advocate. Thank you.

Sarah Jack:

Thank you, Mary.

Josh Hutchinson:

Now here's Sarah with End Witch Hunts News.

Sarah Jack:

End Witch Hunts, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), Weekly News Update. We must continue to educate against witch-hunt behavior and provide communities with the resources to feel safe together and to work together. If you are in the position to positively impact the communities that experience witch-hunt behaviors, stand in the gap with active advocates now. Today, the victims of sorcery accusation related violence must not be nameless and disregarded. We may not know the names of men and women who were attacked today, but we know what is happening. We can speak about their stories and their innocence. We can continue to educate the world about which hunting today. We can acknowledge the crisis. Know that the victims have names, that they have lives, that they have plans, that they want their beautiful tomorrow. If you are in the position to positively impact the communities that experience witch-hunt behaviors in which attacks, stand in the gap with active advocates now. I am descended from two well-known accused witches, one whose name was used in the iconic play of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Rebecca Nurse is a name that is familiar with everyone who knows even a little about the Salem witchcraft trials. She said on the record, the world will know my innocence. We do know her innocence, and we can name her as innocent by name. Rebecca Nurse was not a witch. Some of the trials on record have accused identified only by their husband's surname as Goodwife or Goody. Goody Knapp, Goodwife Bassett. We do not know the given name of these women, but we do know that they were innocent of causing supernatural harm. Goody Knapp and Goodwife Bassett were not witches. In the American colonies, we have primary sources indicating that at least one unknown person was accused of witchcraft crimes in Connecticut. Unknown was not a witch. Unknown was innocent. Although some names are recorded, the names of thousands of other imprisoned and executed alleged witch across Scotland are unknown. They were innocent. They were not witches. When we hear the name of Rebecca Nurse, Marion Twedy, and Isobel Gowdie or other named, executed witch trial victims, may we always see their unnamed sisters, the unknown victims standing there with them in history, unforgotten. Today, 70 years after The Crucible, the play Prick is memorializing the thousands of women who suffered and died as unnamed alleged witches. This play recognizes them. It is a memorial to the unknown. We must remember them. Thank you, Prick, for honoring their memory in a significant and beautiful way, and for educating the world about witch trials through creative art. You are part of Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast community. Your listening and support is part of the work that keeps the critical conversation on ending witch hunts alive and expanding. When you share episodes with your friends, you are making an effort against violence. Having conversations about what is going on is an easy way that you can jump in to end witch hunts. Advocates worldwide are using their particular abilities, influence, and social network. And when you also listen and share, you are part of strengthening that network. It takes every mind, every voice, every small effort. You are a part of the world network that succeeds because of collaboration and collective efforts. When you speak up about sorcery accusation related violence, you will get questions about the issue. Questions regarding violence against alleged witches can be scary, but we have your back. Not only have you garnered the answers by listening to the conversations on Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast, you can direct anyone to the program for more information. You can reach out to us with your questions and comments anytime. We are on all social media platforms and have a contact form on our website. Let us know how the conversation is going for you in your sphere of influence. We want to know. Reach out. Visiting our websites and the advocate websites listed in our show notes often is another way to stay up to date and support the work. To support us, make a tax deductible donation at endwitchhunts.org. Your support funds are witch trial history and advocacy education projects. You can purchase most of the books discussed on Thou Shalt Not Suffer episodes in our online bookshop, or you can buy it directly from the guest. We sell End Witch Hunts, Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, and Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast t-shirts and coffee mugs online in our zazzle.com shop. Make a purchase to support us. Have you considered supporting the production of the podcast by joining other listeners as a super listener? Thank you for adding our Super Listener program to the way you support us. Your super listener donation is tax deductible. Thank you.

Josh Hutchinson:

Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah Jack:

You're welcome.

Josh Hutchinson:

And thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.

Sarah Jack:

Join us next week for another important episode.

Josh Hutchinson:

Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Sarah Jack:

I hope you're visiting us at thoushaltnotsuffer.com.

Josh Hutchinson:

Remember to tell your friends about the show.

Sarah Jack:

Support our efforts to end witch hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more.

Josh Hutchinson:

Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.