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HomeNewsGravenhurst theatre group accused of witchcraft and satanism with latest play

Gravenhurst theatre group accused of witchcraft and satanism with latest play

Neighbours have yelled “witchcraft” from their backyards and others have accused Autumn Smith of Satanism because of her latest play.

Autumn Smith owns Littlewood Smith and TimberBeast Productions and wrote “Souls of the Shield” as a way to recount some of Muskoka’s ghost stories that have been forgotten or aren’t talked about. “It’s a play excavating our town’s history through voices and narratives that are no longer available to us,” she explains, adding all the voices are from people that have “been banished from society or have lost their family so there is no one to carry on their legacy.”

“I thought it was important to share their narrative,” Smith says.

The controversy comes from where the play is being held,  Lakeview Cemetery at 230 Wagner St.

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“Lakeview has a tonne of history behind it,” Smith explains. She adds that most of the people who were laid to rest there were alive in the late stages of the Victorian era, which is the time the play takes place. “It’s an appropriate setting,” she says.

Smith says she has worked closely with the Town of Gravenhurst and the police to make sure nothing is being done that’s against the rules. “People have suggested that we are being disrespectful, that we are witches, that we are Satanists,” Smith says. “It’s been a very interesting journey for us because we are none of those things.”

There are five performances left for the play. Smith says all will be done at the cemetery. 

Smith, who’s mother passed away in June, says she is empathetic with those who think what they’re doing is wrong. “I do emphasize with people but I also realize there are so many stories we have forgotten about or lost track of,” she says. 

Since the controversy started, Smith has had conversations with family members of people who are buried at the cemetery. “We are not desecrating the graves,” she says. “We are not trouncing all over the area. We are being very respectful.”

She explains the play takes place in an open space of the graveyard and most of it takes place while they’re sitting on stools. 

Smith says immersive plays like this are what she wants to do. Last year, she reworked “A Christmas Carol” to feature references to Muskoka and held the play on the streets of Gravenhurst. Recently, she performed her play “Twelfth Night at the Muskoka Wharf”,  “I encourage people to be curious and come out and see the work,” Smith says.

While she’s adamant that she’s doing nothing wrong by holding a play at the graveyard, Smith says they will no longer be performing at 9 PM, instead moving the evening shows up two hours. She says they will also do more to make sure people in the area know of what’s going on with this play and future plays. “We’re in a learning process, too,” Smith says. “We want to make great changes where we live.”

“One might be daunted by a few people criticizing the work, but the majority of the people that have seen the work are supportive of what we’re doing,” Smith says. 

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