This week, Jared Bowen brings us a layered examination of the Salem Witch Trials at the Peabody Essex Museum and a historic, new play presented by New Repertory Theatre. Plus, a preview of what’s in store at the Roxbury International Film Festival.

“The Salem Witch Trials 1692,” on view at the Peabody Essex Museum through April 4, 2021

Salem Witch Trials 1692
Tompkins Harrison Matteson. 1813–1884, New York. Examination of a Witch, 1853. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase, 1978.
Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum

Superstition and hysteria fueled the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, which led to the deaths of 25 innocent women, men and children. Today, visitors at the Peabody Essex Museum can look beyond the superstition by way of an exhibition of historic artifacts and documents from this infamous period of American history. “The Salem Witch Trials 1692” features a host of rarely seen manuscripts, books and personal belongings from various people involved in the Salem Witch Trials. The documents from PEM's Phillips Library collection include everything from the “Malleus Maleficarum,” a 15th-century book written as a guide to declaring witchcraft, to the personal examinations and testimonies of both the accusers and victims of the witch trials.

“These events happened to real people,” says co-curator and Head Librarian of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum Dan Lipcan, “and the people involved in this crisis had fears and emotions just like we do. This was a harrowing experience for everybody involved, and not something to be celebrated or taken lightly.”

“The Roxbury International Film Festival,” presented virtually through Oct. 5

The Sit-in: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show
(Left to right) Ed McMahon and guests Nipsey Russell, Leon Bibb, Paul Newman and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. sit down with “The Tonight Show” guest host Harry Belafonte.
Courtesy of Roxbury International Film Festival

The 22nd Roxbury International Film Festival is being presented virtually for the first time this year. The festival kicked off its opening night on Sept. 30 with two short documentaries: “Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business,” directed by Christine Turner, and “Charles Coe: Man of Letters,” directed by Roberto Mighty. The festival also features a screening of the documentary feature “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show,” in which director Yoruba Richen recounts a week in February, 1968 when Harry Belafonte filled in for Johnny Carson as host of "The Tonight Show" and brought on a series of guests not often featured on network programming including, notably, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The festival continues through Oct. 5, with tickets available for individual films or the entire festival via its website.

Jared describes “The Sit-In” as “An absorbing, entertaining and bright look at a moment in which the entertainment industry had the stomach to confront racism via one of its most precious platforms. But Harry Belafonte, with his undaunted conviction, had only a finite moment. And we’re left to consider what should have been.”

“Watertown Historical Moving Plays: The Charles W. Lenox Experience,” presented by New Repertory Theatre and the Watertown Free Public Library and the Historical Society of Watertown through Nov. 8, 2020

Watertown Historical Moving Plays: The Charles W. Lenox Experience
Kadahj Bennett stars as Charles W. Lenox in “Watertown Historical Moving Plays: The Charles W. Lenox Experience."
Courtesy of New Repertory Theatre

New Repertory Theatre has teamed up with the Historical Society of Watertown and the Watertown Free Public Library to tell the history of one of its Civil War veterans via a walking play. “The Charles W. Lenox Experience” tracks the life of Charles W. Lenox (Kadahj Bennett), a Union soldier. Audiences follow Bennett along a 60-minute, roughly half-mile walk, stopping at various historic sites around Watertown Square as he recounts his experiences leading up to and after the Civil War.

“Here we find live theater literally getting on its feet,” says Jared, “drawing us into the history embedded on our streets and into the men who fought to walk them freely.”

October is here! How are you getting creative this fall? Tell Jared about it on Facebook or Twitter!