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Witchcraft trials and gender inequality in Nazareth College production of "Vinegar Tom"

Published January 25, 2019

Under the guise of a 17th century witch hunt, Nazareth College Theatre and Dance Department and Theatre League's latest production will explore the marginalization of women in both the past and present.

Vinegar Tom, a play with music by Obie Award winning author Caryl Churchill, runs February 15 through February 24 in Studio Theater A48 at Nazareth College, located at 4245 East Avenue, Rochester, 14618. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 15, Saturday, February 16, Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23. There will also be afternoon performances at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 17 and Sunday, February 24. **This show contains mature themes, sexuality, and language.**

Vinegar Tom is directed by Lindsay Reading Korth, professor of theatre arts at Nazareth College, in collaboration with associate director/choreographer Hettie Barnhill, assistant professor in professional practice at Nazareth College, Alexandria Ireijo, assistant choreographer and Nazareth student, and Julia Covach, musical director and music support at Nazareth College.

Set in 17th Century England, Vinegar Tom examines gender and power dynamics through the lens of the witchcraft trials. The main protagonist Alice, her mother Joan, and other women in the neighborhood are not fitting the societal norms—sparking an investigation by doctors and witch hunters. What unfolds is a tale of injustice and patriarchy that begs the question—where does real evil lie?

The play was written in the late 60's as a response to the growing Women's Rights Movement, shining the spotlight on gender inequality. Among the actors in period dress are a chorus who provide commentary (through song and dance) in modern clothing, making connections to the gender inequality that still exists today.

"These issues are certainly playing out in the American political and social stage of current events today," said Korth. "By taking the themes and placing them in 17th Century England, Churchill provides the distance of time and place for us to examine these recurring human struggles."

The play's feminist themes are made clear through the music and dance numbers, an unusual device for an (otherwise) straight play.

"Dance is used in Vinegar Tom as an extension of the dialogue from the characters and the worlds that they are in," said associate director/choreographer Hettie Barnhill. "Dance is also used as a universal language for women in that era and their experiences they might have shared. As choreographer for the show, I allowed the text and show design to dictate how I approached the movement and blocking. My movement came from an emotional place."

Friday 2/15: Rachel Bailey Jones, associate professor in education
Sunday 2/24: Yamuna Sangarasivam, professor of anthropology in sociology & anthropology

Tickets for this show are $12.00 for general admission, and $10.00 for senior citizens. To purchase tickets, you can call the box office at 585-389-2170, visit the box office, or order online.

The box office is located in the Nazareth College Arts Center at 4245 East Avenue, Rochester. Hours of operation for the box office are Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and 11 a.m. until the show starts on scheduled performance days.

The cast of Vinegar Tom features Josephine Herlong (Alice), Ismael Cisse (Man/Doctor/Bellring), Brook Mordenga (Margery), Jared C. Curtis (Jack), Julianna Pollicino (Susan), Yakira Capri Coleman (Ellen/Kramer), Chelsea Jensen (Betty), Dwight Young (Packer), Kara Smith (Goody), Sara Hayward (Joan/Sprenger), Peter Smith (Male Singer), Nevasse Magone-Fragale (Female Singer), Shaughnessey Gower (Female Singer), and Samantha Antoniewicz (Female Singer).

The creative team includes Lindsay Reading Korth (director), Hettie Barnhill (associate director/choreographer), Allen Wright Shannon (scenic designer), Emily Stork (lighting designer), Julia Covach (musical director), junior Alexandria Ireijo (assistant choreographer), junior Kristopher Wysowski (costume designer), junior Jacob Beha (sound designer), and sophomore Rayna Mandara (stage manager).

Vinegar Tom is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.

For More Information

Michelle Shippers | Marketing & Publicity Manager | 585-389-2093 or |

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Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,300 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.

L to R: Sara Hayward (Joan) and Josephine Herlong (Alice) play mother and daughter in the Nazareth College production of "Vinegar Tom"