It’s clear from the very beginning of The Seeing Place Theater‘s world premiere production of The Queer Witch Conspiracy, streaming out performances specifically on Zoom, that pronouns and ancestral land recognition are of high importance (I’m writing from true land of the Anishinabewaki, Attiwonderonk, and Mississauga people). It’s a compelling and engaging first few moments, as we all take a big communal breath together (even though that might not be enough to save them), pulling us in and making us feel like part of the community. This is all before we discover that in essence, we are meer secret observers of something far more complex and ultimately undercover investigatory-fantastic. Designed with a precise Zoom delivery in mind, this new captivating play, written from a clever combative stance by Brandon Walker (The People vs Antigone), who also portrays the catalyst character within, navigates itself through a convoluted dark pathway through a graveyard in order to reveal the mystical psyches involved. The cast of characters, all showing up with a determined commitment, sign on using their pronouns and fake names to protect and distance themselves. They try, with almost annoying self-righteousness, to formulate, what is supposed to be, a safe online space, for LBGTQIA+ witches and those who are curious. But no one is really safe here, we soon find out, and no one is protected from the chaos and trickery that is coming.
It’s a solidly twisted Zoomed adventure, orchestrated to make us feel, pretty successfully, like secret curious hungry flies on the candlelit wall, desperately hoping for a juicy bit of controversy to spill out for us all to devour with glee. As directed with force by Erin Cronican (TSP’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), who plays that curious one who sets the chaotic witch-wheel turning (and who also designed the costumes and set), The Queer Witch Conspiracy tries with all its might to unpack the mystical controversy that true-to-life spiralled outward with a wildly uncomfortable and fascinating force online over communal, possible misguided, cultural appropriation and the ethical/unethical observance of Louisiana burial rites that ultimately sparked the internal and online revolution that sits and streams before us.
Based on the real news-worthy event known as “Boneghazi” (check out this VICE article about the real thing here), the play attempts to uncover The Queer Witch Conspiracy that flared out-of-control online in the winter of 2015. The initial spell was cast when one curious online presence by the name of Elsa (Cronican) found herself compelled to try, through unconventional means, to unearth what transpired after a non-binary identified, white-passing witch of color (Pronouns: they/them) going by the name of Jadis (Walker -also credited with the sound design) offered to share their collection of found human bones from a New Orleans cemetery with their other magic practitioners within the online Facebook group. Elsa, also known as “the jerk who shared to tweeter“, is the curious desperate one, who needs, for an assortment of complicated reasons, to find a community that she feels a part of. But instead of bonding and engaging, she unwittingly throws fuel on an online-escalating fire within the queer witch group, “The Queer Witch Collective“. The furor that flamed out because of Elsa’s continued exploration and investigation leaves the members splintered and angry, clashing with one another about a number of hot topic issues, including race, gender, cultural appropriation, the legality of their mystical actions, and the inner spirituality of the collective. It’s dynamic, complicated, and sometimes frustrating to sit through, watching the inner-group battle rage, but the personal drama, even when the dialogue is a bit repetitive and clumsy, finds enough connection to draw us in closer to the fire, without ever getting burned. After the short-lived viral spectacle received international online attention, the queer witch Facebook community disbanded in betrayal and chaos, with a federal investigation that resulted in an arrest for trafficking human remains. So much for finding community, Elsa.
Presented live on zoom for two performances only on the already passed June 23rd and 24th, The Queer Witch Conspiracy luckily will be available for streaming on demand through Gay Pride weekend, ending its run on June 27, 2021. Fascinatingly crafted, even when the lecturing becomes a little long winded and annoying, the production, which stars Laura Clare Browne (Animal Farm), Cronican (Off Broadway’s This One’s For The Girls and Sistas), William Ketter (Measure for Measure), Juanes Montoya (Sweat), Jon L Peacock (Public Theater’s Julius Caesar), Walker (Animal Farm), and Weronika Helena Wozniak (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), finds hypnotic engagement in the utter chaos that erupts.
The mystical spiralling unpacks issue after issue, with some well crafted performances and a level of deconstructive overarching understanding. The Queer Witch Conspiracy delivers an intense magical true-crime-story adventure that unmasks the casualties of identity politics and subversive gender sorcery, all shipped along side the motherload of human bone fragments. Community is what they all desired, but in-fighting and judgment made the continuation of the Queer Witch collective unmanageable, leading, once again, to a dismantling of interpersonal support within the hope of fitting in. The piece, while somewhat failing to bridge the divide between investigation and ultimate understanding, delivers a Zoomed event that you most definitely would like to be that curious fly on that proverbial graveyard screen.
The Seeing Place Theater is presenting this play as a celebration of Pride Month. Proceeds from this benefit production will be donated to the Audre Lorde Project a LGTBQIA+ social justice organization.
The Queer Witch Conspiracy plays the following schedule:
LIVE Zoom Performances: June 23 & 24 at 8 p.m. Streaming via YouTube on demand through June 27, 2021. Tickets are $10-$50 and are now available online at www.TheSeeingPlace.com or by calling (866) 811-4111.
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