Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

HANG 'EM HIGH! ; CYAC Musical Explores 1692 Salem Witch Trials

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

HANG 'EM HIGH! ; CYAC Musical Explores 1692 Salem Witch Trials

Article excerpt

WANT TO TO? Mercy Presented by the Contemporary Youth Arts Company WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m. Feb. 18-20. 2 p.m. Feb. 21 WHERE: Capitol Theater, 123 Summers St. TICKETS: Adults $15. Students and seniors $8. INFO: 304-342-6522 or cyaccharleston.com

Thursday night, Contemporary Youth Arts Company debuts "Mercy, a new musical from playwright Dan Kehde and composer Mark Scarpelli. The show is centered around 17-year-old Mercy Lewis, one of the key figures in the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, 20 people in Salem, Massachusetts, were executed over allegations of witchcraft.

Kehde said, taken from a certain perspective, the hysteria that led to the deaths of so many was completely understandable.

"What most people don't remember is that Salem was a frontier town, he said. "This was 70 years after the landing on Plymouth Rock and, within 50 miles, there were very hostile Indians.

Many of the men of Salem had fought against the Wabanaki Indians, who were aligned with the French to drive the English colonists back to the sea.

"All of these men had fought and lost to the Indians, he said. "The Wabanaki were still around, attacking the colonists all over the place, doing horrendous things. There was a lot of fear of the Indians. You just didn't go out at night.

Salem had also struggled to feed itself. The region had faced several bad winters, which hurt crop production.

"So, when you had these Calvinist preachers show up saying God was punishing the people of Salem, the people of Salem believed it, Kehde said.

Mercy Lewis was the spark that lit the fuse that led to the explosion of accusations.

At 14, Lewis witnessed the brutal murder of her parents by the hands of the Wabanaki. She was carried away by the raiding party and then rescued by George Burroughs, a former minister.

"But the damage was done, Kehde said. "Mercy was the poster child for post-traumatic stress disorder. She was psychotic. She had flashbacks that were triggered by all kinds of things.

Lewis began talking about demons in the woods around young girls, who became engrossed in her delusions. …

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