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Controversy Over A Salem Story’s Posters

February 18, 2019

A Voice in the Dark: A Salem Story, was a recent production put on by Scott Mead, Performing Arts director. The story was an adaptation of the historical Salem Witch Trials, which were the incorrect accusations of witches throughout Salem, Massachusetts leading to wrongful deaths of innocent men and women. Mead believed this piece demonstrated the ideals of today’s society, with relevance to individuals standing up for their beliefs and wrongful accusations, which lead to a positive and thought-provoking response from the audience.  

Similar to the controversy the production entails, the preparation for the show provided illogical representation on the posters to raise awareness for the play. The picture displayed on the poster depicted a noose, which is a loop with a running knot, tightening as the rope is pulled and is typically used to hang people or trap animals. Although nooses were used throughout the Salem Witch Trials to hang the accused witches, they were also used in many other historical events that could easily have ties with many individuals.  

Mead and other actors in the play say it was an unintentional mistake. Mead commented, “the characters get hung at the end of the play, and that’s what happened in history. We put the posters up one day and got some feedback that some people were offended because they didn’t necessarily know what the play was about. Some people just have triggers and a noose can be a trigger to some, for things that happened in the past in the history of the United States. And with that I was asked to change the picture because some people were feeling uncomfortable and uneasy with that image.”  

Mead and a graphic designer in the Central High School Foundation develop images for plays put on in the school each summer and print the copies when the time comes for the play to be put on. Mead estimates there were roughly 30-40 copies of the posters made and put up throughout the school, with the funding for posters coming from the Performing Arts Department. However, when new posters were required, principal Dr. Edward Bennett was able to easily deal with the situation. “Because administration suggested, late in the game, that this change needed to be made, we’re not going to force him to pay for it or make it come out of drama funds that were existing for the drama department. I found other funds in the school that were not taking anything away from anyone else, that exist so I can be able to pay for things like that. Although Mr. Mead I’m sure would’ve happily paid for it to be fixed, we’re not going to make him do that. Just because we can doesn’t mean it’s right.” 

Although the situation with the posters was quickly and graciously attended to, the tickets dealing with the play contained the original design of the noose. However, Dr. Bennett decided it would be okay, “If you go to see the play, you know what you’re getting into. It’s not like you’re walking down a hallway in a school that you are required go to, and all of a sudden you see these things in the hallway that could offend you, you’re a captive audience and that’s not fair to you. But if you pay money to go see the play, you’re interested enough to go, and you are informed it is not about anything other than witches.  

Although this incident with the posters for A Salem Story presented an offensive issue that presided with various students and teachers throughout the school, administration and Mead dealt with the situation quickly allowing individuals to continue working in the safe environment Central offers.  

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