“Kissing the Witch” graces the Harper Joy Theatre stage

Amelia Leach, Campus Life Reporter

On Thursday, March 2, the Whitman community will  have the exciting opportunity to get the lesbian feminist perspective on classic fairy tales they didn’t know they needed. “Kissing the Witch,” a play based on a novel by Emma Donoghue, will be running from Thursday to Sunday, March 5.

“Kissing the Witch” is a cycle of short stories based on fairy tales, with the addition of feminist twists and every story being interrelated. One story leads to another, and a supporting character in one story may be the main character in the next story. The central theme of the book is women telling their secret histories to each other.

Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance Laura Hope is directing and producing the play. She met Donoghue while working at a theater company called the Festival of Irish Women Playwrights in the early 2000s. She was moved by Donoghue’s original novel, so she suggested turning it into a play; they did a world premiere. Donoghue went on to become a very successful writer and was nominated for an Academy Award for her writing.

“Her books are brimming with intelligence but also real empathy and real hope. [There is] a lot about women trying to escape situations where they’re not allowed to be their authentic selves,” Hope said.

Donoghue writes from a lesbian feminist perspective about things that aren’t what they appear to be, finding yourself, finding your identity and finding your voice. Hope thought this would be the perfect play for a college campus because these themes are so prevalent in college.

“This play feels like a big hug from [Donoghue] for anybody that’s engaging with these topics of who I am versus who other people want me to be,” Hope said.

The play has only four actors. Senior Taegan Snyder, who is doing her acting thesis on this play, appreciates this small cast a lot.

“The last play I was in with [Hope] was 13 people, and that was really chaotic and hard to manage at times. I like the smaller cast because it’s easier to work with fewer people,” Snyder said.

Having a small cast also presents certain differences for the Costumes Department. Visiting Assistant Professor in Theatre and Dance and Costume Shop Director Aaron Chvatal designed the show, including shredded witch costumes and a donkey head made of raffia.

“This play is unique in that it is a small cast with only four actors who portray many characters over the course of the play, so these costumes had to be specially designed to help them transform throughout the show into multiple characters,” Chvatal said.

Chvatal has been involved in theatre all his life, and he has been a part of several theatre departments as both an actor and costume designer. He’s been with Whitman for around a year.

“Here at Whitman, we do have the ability to produce from scratch some really incredible things. Whitman is a great place as far as theatre and design are concerned,” Chvatal said. “Theatre is my life; it’s my passion, and I love getting to work with people who are also very passionate about this.”

Hope shares the same passion for theatre and describes the theatre major as “the hidden gem in liberal arts.” She described how it teaches so many transferable skills, such as public speaking, writing, leadership skills, teamwork and working on a deadline.

Snyder has enjoyed being a theatre major, and says that theatre is what she has wanted to do with her life for a long time. She’s been in plays since she was six or seven years old and has loved being a part of this one. 

“I really like our set. Also, our sound designer is putting some amazing sounds together. Now that I’m hearing them, it’s really bringing the play together. I also really like my castmates,” Snyder said.

The surprising turnabouts in this play make for an exciting theatrical experience.

“Part of the joy of discovering this play for the first time is the twists; how she retells the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and how she retells the story of ‘The Little Mermaid’ in which there are no mermaids,” Hope said. 

“Kissing the Witch” is jam-packed with stories and themes for everyone. It’s both serious and comedic, and it contains questions of identity and true love. It also has lots of room for reflection, not only about the notion of identity, but the tales that are ingrained in our culture and what they mean.

The show will run on March 2 at 8 p.m., March 3 at 8 p.m., March 4 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and March 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the Harper Joy Box Office during working hours or at the door 45 minutes before the show.