Home > Plays > Afflicted: Daughters of Salem

“We did invite the Devil into our midst and he will take us down to hell!”

In 1691 Puritan New England, fear and superstition were rampant. Singing, dancing and amusement of any kind was forbidden. The devil was everywhere. Five girls coming of age in Salem Village, desperate for release of their thoughts and feelings, find an ally in Tituba, a black slave who longs for freedom. Deep in the woods the girls make a pact and build a sisterhood. Then alliances are formed, promises made and broken, power taken. Afflicted: Daughters of Salem tells the story of the Salem girls—Abigail Williams, the leader, Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren and Betty Parris, and the events that led up to the infamous Salem witch trials. This origin story examines how these teenage girls became accusers and caused 20 people to be put to death for witching. An interactive forum that explores the accusers and their community is built into the play, encouraging reflection and is ideal for complimenting classroom work. This play is a must for deeper engagement alongside any study of the Salem witch trials. Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, explores not only the history and causes of the trials but also how girls raised in oppression have negotiated alliances and power throughout history just as they do today. Commissioned and premiered by the Coterie Theatre.

Laurie’s Comment:

Adapted from a broadcast on KCUR, Kansas City Public radio:

Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, a National Endowment for the Arts award-winning new drama commissioned by The Coterie from playwright Laurie Brooks, begins before the Salem Witch Trials. Inspired by the clique of teen girl accusers that forever established the legacy of Salem., the fictionalized account of their lives in Salem Village and the pressures they endured in such a closed society comes into focus in the play.

Jeff Church, artistic director of The Coterie Theatre, was interested in the Salem girls who became accusers and asked me if I’d like to write a play that explored their role in the trials. He didn’t have to ask me twice. Together, we tossed around the idea of an origin story that would examine how the accusations might have begun. We had a keen interest in how the girls’ relationships and their power dynamics played a role. Tons of research that kept me up late at night and a week of development at Arizona State University led to the performance audiences will experience.

The more I read the more fascinated I became. I was especially beguiled by the process of imagining the relationships between these girls that were dictated by the social mores and rigid religious beliefs that surrounded them. Their lives were completely controlled, from reading only the Bible to arranged marriages.

The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s classic play, which many young adults read in school, covers the actual trials very well. I wanted to explore the group dynamics, the power struggles, and struggle for survival of these girls in a world where danger is a huge part of their everyday lives.”

Available from: Dramatic Publishing