To Burn a Witch
Other Plays by James L. Bray
Bray, James L. (American playwright, ____-____), “To Burn a Witch,”
a __-minute drama in English, set in a cell-like room, Salem, Massachusetts, May 14, 1683,
© ____ by James L. Bray;
• in James L. Bray’s To Burn a Witch (Woodstock, Illinois, U.S.A.: The Dramatic Publishing Company, ____);
• script/rights from The Dramatic Publishing Company, P. O. Box 129, 311 Washington Street, Woodstock, Illinois 60098, U.S.A., telephone 800-HIT-SHOW, fax 800-334-5302, DPC T32;
• also, script/rights from Hansen Drama Shop, 718 East 39th South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84107-2106, U.S.A., telephone, 801-268-8753, fax (801) 265-3829.
Ruth Hanna Smith (f), a pretty, zestful young girl; Mary Abigail Gentry (f), an attractive, serene young girl; Dame Stanley (f), older woman; Widow Jones (f), aide to Dame Stanley.
Mary has been confined for nine days, Ruth one week, to make them confess to witchcraft. As Ruth nears the breaking point, Mary remains steadfast to her claim of innocence and her faith in God’s protection. Mary tries to comfort her longtime friend. Ruth lacks such faith and rejects counsel that life is but a preparation for afterlife. At this moment, Dame Stanley, accompanied by Widow Jones, comes to read a proclamation from the community. It charges the two with Satanic events. A fire is being readied for them unless they confess and repent. Ruth accedes to the demand; Mary cannot confess. Dame Stanley challenges Ruth to prove repentance by persuading Mary to confess. The older women leave to give Ruth time. Her pleadings to Mary fail, so Ruth resorts to threats. She will pretend a seizure and convince the women that Mary alone is a witch. Mary resists, placing no blame. Ruth calls the women and tells them Satanic events have occurred that prove Mary to be a witch. When they hesitate to believe her, Ruth feigns a seizure and convinces them, saving herself and condemning Mary to the fire. Mary, not even allowed time to pray, will yet pray as they walk forth. Dame Stanley says, “You see, witch, today you lose everything.” Mary answers, “No, Dame Stanley, today I gain everything.”
“Two girls wait in the bare cell room for the questioning to resume. Accused of witchcraft, they are terrified. The Salem community in which they live burns to death those convicted of being "Brides of Satan." Mary refuses to lie—even to save herself—but Ruth, desperately frightened, "confesses." The questioners then turn to Mary, but she cannot bring herself to swear to this lie. Since the two girls have always been so close, the questioners are dissatisfied with the conflicting stories. To save herself, Ruth feigns a seizure in which she deeply implicates her friend Mary. Only one hope remains for Mary now, and in a scene of dramatic power she makes her final choice.”—To Burn a Witch, http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/, accessed July 17, 2001.
• A sensitive psychological portrayal of the falsely accused, this play sounds cries from early American history that have echoed in modern times, specifically in the early 1950s. Many American high schools study The Crucible, by Arthur Miller; this popular short script presents in brief some of the conflict in Miller’s famous full-length play. Staging is simple, even bare stage if desired, with emphasis on costumes and lighting.
• Research could include George Malcolm Yool’s 1692 Witch Hunt: The Layman’s Guide to the Salem Witchcraft Trials (Bowie, Maryland, U.S.A.: Heritage Books, 1992).
• Also, research could include Deborah Kent’s Salem, Massachusetts, 1st edition, illustrated in color, Places in American History series (Parsippany, New Jersey, U.S.A.: Dillon Press, 1996), with index, ISBN 0875186483, (LSB) 0382391748.
• “James L. Bray’s birth was actually a double billing. He shared the event with identical twin, Ben. For the first several years of their lives they were to entertain Tidewater, Virginia with their twin acts of dancing, singing, and acting. Jim became truly interested in acting in college (College of William and Mary) and was a regular cast member of that institution’s theatre. He appeared in eight shows including Shakespeare, O'Casey, and Shaw offerings. Bray began his serious efforts as a playwright in the 1960s with his THE COUNTING PEOPLE and THE CRY OF THE CROWS for Pioneer Drama. Other plays included TO BURN A WITCH, PRINCESS O'TOOLE, THE BLUE AND THE GRAY, and THE BLACK. Commissioned plays have also been a part of Bray’s writings. He and twin brother were commissioned by the U. S. Department of Interior to write eight dramas to celebrate the 1781 surrender of the British at Yorktown, Virginia. And James Bray also wrote THE FOUNDERS, a play commissioned by Pi Kappa Alpha to celebrate their century mark anniversary. Television scripts by Jim Bray were numerous. He produced and wrote a local series, FROM THE GLORY, on WRVA-TV in Richmond, Virginia which lasted two years with 26 shows being aired. Professor Bray is a title Bray enjoyed for some 33 years at Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC. In addition, he served as the director of the NC Governor’s School, a summer program for gifted and talented high school youths. In 1994 and l995, Bray served as president of the National Conference of Governors' Schools an organization representing over 100 such schools in 30 states. James Bray is now a full-time playwright and resides in Winston-Salem, NC with his wife, Virginia. They have been married for 49 years and have two grown sons. In addition to playwriting, Bray enjoys travel, research , and computers. His e-mail address is email@example.com and he enjoys chatting online.”—Introducing James L. Bray, http://www.pioneerdrama.com/playwrights/jlb.html, accessed January 20, 2006.