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December 1, 2010

Drama school play tells story of ‘Last Witch to be executed in British Isles

The UW School of Dramas production of Rona Munros The Last Witch opens Friday, Dec. 3 and runs through Dec. 12 at the Jones Playhouse. Directed by MFA candidate Paula Bennett as her thesis production, the play features MFA students from the Professional Actor Training Program and faculty actors.

Based on historical events, The Last Witch tells the story of Janet Horne, the last woman to be executed as a witch in the British Isles. When Janets apparent magical powers stir suspicion in her small 18th century Scottish village, she will not refute her neighbors claims of witchcraft. Spirited, quarrelsome, and fiercely protective of her deformed daughter, Helen, Janet is accused of sleeping with the devil and giving birth to his child.

In The Last Witch, Munro offers her interpretation of a historical enigma, piecing together fragments of the past in an effort to present Janet and Helens struggles against suspicious neighbors, poverty, and their own turbulent natures. According to The Guardian, “Munro plays confidently with uncertainty and the play skips lightly along the line between fantasy and reality – an old world of deeply embedded ancient beliefs and a new one where a different kind of knowledge flourishes. The devil here appears in many guises, but all of them male.”

In Munros Scotland, although the men may rule, the real power resides in the emotional lives, friendships and sensuality of women.

“Janet Horne is a legend, and Munro has managed to retell her story within a human context without sacrificing its mythical qualities,” says director Paula Bennett. “There is a lot of magic in the play, but the story has more to do with the power of belief and how this relates to identity. Janets belief in magic gives her control over her life and shows the power that can come from a strong sense of self.”

Munro, the playwright, is a prize-winning Scottish author who has written plays for theater, radio, and television. Her recent credits include the play Iron, which has received many productions worldwide. Other works include plays for the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh (Strawberries in January) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (The Indian Boy). Munro currently lives and works in London. Her newest play, The Last Witch, directed by Dominic Hill, debuted at the 2009 Edinburgh Festival.

Bennett, the director, is an MFA directing candidate at the UW. During the 2009-10 year she directed Translations by Brian Friel. Before attending UW, Paula was a directing intern at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre where she directed Am I Blue for the Milwaukee Rep Intern Lab. Prior to Milwaukee Rep, Paula founded a fringe theatre company called Contact Theatre Seattle. Her past directing credits include: The Gift, Riders to the Sea, The Marlboro Man, and The Nazi Nearest You at Contact Theatre. Some assistant directing credits include: Cymbeline at Engaged Theatre, The Nerd, The Glass Menagerie, A Christmas Carol, and King Lear at the Milwaukee Rep. Paula received theatrical training at Freehold Studio Theatre in Seattle and the Actors Workshop in Dublin, Ireland.

Tickets for the play are $10 for previews, $15 Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; $17 Friday and Saturday. All students pay $10, UW employees/UWAA, seniors, pay $13.  All evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. The UW Arts Ticket Office is at 3901 University Way NE. and is open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Further information is available online.