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K.C.'s Coterie Theatre debuts world premier of 'Afflicted: Daughters of Salem'

Alisha Espinosa, Emily Phillips, Nicole Greenberg, Emily Shackelford, Jessica Jensen and Hannah Thompson star in The Coterie & UMKC’s World Premiere co-production, "Afflicted:  Daughters of Salem," a National Endowment for the Arts award-winning new drama
Alisha Espinosa, Emily Phillips, Nicole Greenberg, Emily Shackelford, Jessica Jensen and Hannah Thompson star in The Coterie & UMKC’s World Premiere co-production, "Afflicted: Daughters of Salem," a National Endowment for the Arts award-winning new drama
J. Robert Schraeder and courtesy of The Coterie

The Coterie and UMKC collaborate to dramatize and undertake a new look at the Salem Witch Trials and the “witches” that conjured up the catastrophic black mark in America’s early history when they present the world premier of Afflicted: Daughters of Salem.

Notorious for their lies and deceit, the girls of Salem get caught up in a series of lies and peer pressure that rock the strict religious minded inhabitants of the small village of Salem, MA, just about 40 miles from Boston in the late 1690's. The hysteria began with Tituba, a slave from the West Indies and a group of girls led by Abigail Adams started pointing others out and claiming they saw them performing witchcraft. The more the hysteria spread, the more the girls pointed out others to keep their notoriety and fend off any possibility of being discovered as liars.

Afflicted: Daughters of Salem comes from a play by Laurie Brooks and falls into the directing hands of Coterie Artistic Director, Jeff Church. The show opens Jan. 28 and runs through Feb. 23 at The Coterie, Level one of Crown Center Shops, Kansas City, Missouri Ticket prices range from $10 for youth under 18, full-time students, and seniors age 60 and older; to $15 for adults, Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more. For more information, go to the website: or call the box office 816.474.6552.

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. Afflicted: Daughters of Salem is inspired by the clique of teen girl accusers that forever established the legacy of Salem.

In the tradition of the hit feature film, Mean Girls, or the popular television series, Pretty Little Liars, Afflicted: Daughters of Salem provides a fictionalized look inside the peer politics and teen rebellions within the group of young girls and the psychology of leaders and followers.

According to a Coterie spokesman, following each performance, audience members will have the chance to participate in a unique, post-show forum to delve into the themes of the play, a trademark of Brooks’ plays. The resolution of the play will happen in the forum.

“Afflicted: Daughters of Salem tells the story of the Salem girls - Abigail Williams, the leader; Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, and Betty Paris - and the crucible of events that led to the contagious Salem Witch Trials,” a press release from the Coterie said. “Amongst the girls, allies are found, promises made and broken, power taken…deep in the woods of Puritan, New England.”

Author Laurie Brooks is a young adult fiction writer and the award-winning playwright behind some of The Coterie's coolest new plays, including The Wrestling Season, The Tangled Web, Atypical Boy, and Selkie: Between Land and Sea. Afflicted: Daughters of Salem is the second of two Coterie commissioned plays written by female playwrights included in the 2013/2014 Season.

The creation of Afflicted: Daughters of Salem grew out of a long-standing relationship between The Coterie’s artistic director, Jeff Church, and playwright Laurie Brooks, who explained how the two collaborated to develop a story that was inspired by the Salem Witch Trials but with a new perspective, a spokesman said.

“Jeff was interested in the teen girls who became the accusers in the Salem Witch Trials. Together we tossed around the idea of an origin story that would examine how the accusations might have begun. We both had a keen interest in how the girls’ relationships and power dynamics played a role. Tons of research and a week of development at Arizona State University led to the performance audiences will experience.”

The Crucible (by Arthur Miller), which most kids read in school, covers the actual trials very well,” playwright Laurie Brooks said. “As a playwright, I have always been fascinated by character, relationships and conflict, so 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 life.”

Produced as part of The Coterie Sparks series, Afflicted: Daughters of Salem will be best appreciated by ages 10 years old through adult. The production is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Missouri Arts Council, the ArtsKC Fund, and Theater League.

The cast of Afflicted: Daughters of Salem features Emily Shackelford (as Ann Putnam), as well as UMKC graduate acting students Nicole Greenberg (as Abigail Williams), Emily Nan Phillips (as Mercy Lewis), Jessica Jensen (as Mary Warren), Alisha Espinosa (as Tituba), and Logan Black (as Voice of Reverend Parris). The cast also features young professional actor, Hannah Thompson (as Betty Paris).

The artistic and production company consists of Laurie Brooks (playwright), Jeff Church (director), Jeff Ridenour (set designer), Kristopher Kirkwood (lighting designer), Tyler Wilson (costume designer), Sarah Putts (sound designer), Bret Engle (properties), William J. Christie (production stage manager), Kaleb Krahn (UMKC technical director), Scott Hobart (Coterie technical director), Erika Bailey (dialect coach), Jennifer Martin (movement consultant), and Kelsey Brennan (production assistant).

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