NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

July 26, 2013

Two decades of 'Cry Innocent'

Creators working on film version of 1992 play about Salem Witch Trials

Three hundred years after the Salem Witch Trials, a cast of Puritans took to the streets of Salem.

As tourists looked on, they dragged accused witch Bridget Bishop to Old Town Hall for her trial — and they’ve been doing it for 20 seasons since then in performances of “Cry Innocent.”

Now, to mark the 21st anniversary, the play’s creators are making a film version.

Scenes were filmed at Salem Pioneer Village through May and June, with the goal of a premiere at CinemaSalem in the fall, said Mark Stevick, a professor at Gordon College in Wenham who wrote both the play and film versions of “Cry Innocent.”

History Alive, a professional branch of the college’s theater arts department, produces the shows in Salem, and many of the actors are students.

The film’s cast includes 35 actors who have performed in “Cry Innocent” through its two decades, including eight from the original 1992 cast.

“There certainly was a lot of good-natured ribbing among the cast members that we are all age-appropriate (for the characters they play) now,” Stevick said.

Eventually, they’d like to produce a DVD that can be sold as a souvenir to audience members and used as an educational tool in classrooms. Stevick said he’ll begin editing film this summer.

Stevick and his wife, Kristina, are co-directing and producing the movie; CinemaSalem owner Paul Van Ness is collaborating as director of photography. Kristina is artistic director of History Alive.

“Cry Innocent” is performed at Old Town Hall in Derby Square through the summer and fall.

The play is set in 1692, when Bridget Bishop was accused of witchcraft. The modern-day audience becomes Bishop’s jury — they hear testimony, ask questions and cross-examine witnesses, then decide on a verdict.

The play changes with each performance, depending on the audience.

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