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'Tituba' To Open At Cinnamon Bay Friday

Jan. 9, 2009 — For the 12th year in a row, Carabana Ensemble Theater Co. will stage performances at Cinnamon Bay Campground. This year's play is a revival of "Tituba," first done at Cinnamon Bay about 10 years ago.
The performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and every Friday through April 24. The performances are free and open to the public.
Written by St. John resident Clarence Cuthbertson, the play chronicles the life of Tituba, a woman who triggerred the Salem witch hunts in 17th century Massachusetts.
"I did some substantial research for this and found she was from South America," Cuthbertson said.
A member of the Tituban tribe, which is part of the Arawak family, Tituba and her mother were captured into slavery and taken to Barbados, where Cuthbertson has roots.
"My grandfather told me to dispel the myths of a woman named Tituba," he said.
Tituba's role in the Salem witch hunts served as the back story in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," Cuthbertson said Miller portrayed her as a matronly woman from Barbados when in fact she was only 26 or 27 years old at the time of the Salem witch hunts.
Tituba was told never to give her real name so she told her captors that she was a Tituban, which is how she got her name. In his research, Cuthbertson couldn't discover her real name.
In Barbados, she served as a slave for a man named Thompson. When he fell on hard times, he sold her to a man named Parris. He took her to Boston, and when he became a minister, on to Salem, where she served as a nanny to his children.
When the plague hit Salem, the Puritans who lived there decided it was started by witchcraft. Cuthbertson said fingers soon began to point to Tituba, who was a skilled herbalist. Tituba was arrested, and under pressure began to name names. After she included the governor's wife on her list of witches, the Salem residents realized that she had told falsehoods.
"But by then, 50 people had been hanged," Cuthbertson said.
Tituba languished in jail for 13 months because she didn't have enough money to pay the jail tax imposed on prisoners. Cuthbertson said that finally a news paper reporter paid the 7 pounds and she was released.
Her fate remains unknown.
"After jail, she dropped off the history page," he said.
The play stars Jessica Silverio in the title role with Cuthbertson accompanying her performance with percussive instrumentation. The St. Thomas-born Silverio recently appeared in Pistarckle Theater's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
All of Carabana's performances at Cinnamon Bay were funded by the Friends of V.I. National Park.
"Many of the stories of the Caribbean are relevant to St. John," Friends President Joe Kessler said.
The funding, which runs the Friends group about $10,000 a year, come under the organization's cultural preservation programs.
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