The Heartbeat of Haverhill

Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA

Haverhill’s Legacy of Integrity is Brought to the Stage by Local Author

Haverhill on Broadway?….maybe down the road a bit.  The Heartbeat of Haverhill has noticed that lots of people are talking about “Saltonstall’s Trial. One Man’s Defense of the Salem Witches“, a new play by Michael Cormier that takes on Haverhill’s role in the  Salem Witch Trials. The play is currently in pre-production with a staged reading planned for November 5, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. in Hamilton.
DSC00511 Haverhill John Cormier author at Buttonwoods Saltonstall Book

Author Michael Cormier at Buttonwoods Museum, Haverhill MA.. Courtesy Photo credit: Noah Greenstein

Author Michael Cormier is a Haverhill High School grad  who researched his story at the Buttonwoods Museum. The building that houses the Buttonwoods Museum collection was formerly the Saltonstall Estate and the play is produced in conjunction with the Museum.
“I’ve been interested in the Salem witch trials since I was a kid, and over the years I read everything about the subject that I could get my hands on. I kept running across little blurbs about this judge, Nathaniel Saltonstall of Haverhill, Massachusetts, who quit the witch trial court in disgust after only one trial. Being from Haverhill, and seeing that he was the only judge who had the guts or sense to protest what was going on, I became fascinated by the whys and hows – and  especially what made this man tick.”
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The Saltonstall Estate is now Buttonwoods Museum in Haverhill MA

 

He began research for the play in August, 2016 and finished the first draft in December, and “was fortunate to fall in with some very talented and driven people, whose love of history and good theater is immeasurable. My friend Linda Greenstein was encouraging from the very first, and always there to help in any way. She’s a PR dynamo, and a gifted journalist in her own right. Then there’s our director, Myriam Cyr, an accomplished actor and director whose instincts are always spot on. She’s just a pleasure to work with, and I’ve learned a great deal from her already. Patricia Jamison, our producer, is another dynamo who makes things happen behind the scenes. Jan Williams, the director of Haverhill’s Buttonwoods Museum, was also extremely helpful when I was researching the subject matter. The Haverhill Public Library’s archives were a great source of information, too.

Saltonstall's Trial lay in Haverhill Fullscreen capture 10232017 84434 AM
Saltonstall is a well known name in Haverhill. There is even a lake named after the family, though most people in the City use its familiar name, Plug Pond, rather than Lake Saltonstall. According to Wikipedia, Nathaniel Saltonstall was appointed a judge along with six other men to the Court of Oyer and Terminer on May 27, 1692 based on his good works and public standing in the community. He resigned in under two weeks around June 8, 1692, the same time as Bridget Bishop‘s trial and sentence for witchcraft.
That decision, though made almost 400 years ago, is a timeless display of honesty, integrity and selflessness. A man bravely stood up for what was legally and ethically right despite the potential peril to his reputation and business. He did not succumb to peer pressure of the highest sort, and had no interest in being part of the hysteria of the witchcraft trials. It was a decision that ultimately derailed his community stature, and alienated him from his comfortable life.
DSC_7661 HAverhill Saltonstall Grave Pentucket Burial Ground

THOH hopes Nathaniel ultimately got the peace he deserved. The Saltonstall Family grave marker stands above the rest in the Pentucket Burial Ground Haverhill MA

The play’s setting includes Haverhill’s John Ward House and Saltonstall Estate, both properties of Buttonwoods Museum. Haverhill’s John Ward was Nathaniel Saltonstall’s father-in-law and plays important role in in story line.
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John Ward House at Buttonwoods Museum Haverhill, MA

The staged reading (no costumes, props, or production elements) is being directed by Myriam Cyr and will be produced on November 5, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at The Black Box Lab, Stage 284, 284 Bay Road, Hamilton. One night only. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. To reserve seats, visit http://saltonstall.bpt.me or call 978-468-4818. The full production is planned for fall of 2018 at Northern Essex Community College’s campus theater in Haverhill.
Director Myriam Cyr has extensive professional credits in theater and film as an actress and director. She starred opposite Al Pacino in his theatrical production of “Salome” and on film, she appeared in the horror film “Gothic” and as Ultra Violet in “I Shot Andy Warhol.” Most recently, she directed “I Am Antigone” at the Theater for the New City in
New York.
Haverhill John Cormier author at Buttonwoods Saltonstall Book and Miriam CyrJohnWardHosueM&M

“Saltonstall’s Trial” Author Michael Cormier and Director Myriam Cyr at the John Ward House of Buttonwoods Museum, Haverhill MA. This house figures into the play.

MORE ON MICHAEL AS THOH INTERVIEWS THE AUTHOR

History in Haverhill –

The Cormier family  moved to Haverhill  in 1973 and Michael attended Hunking Middle School and graduated HHS in 1978. He also lived in Haverhill off and on as a young adult, and had a law office here. His parents lived on South Kimball Street in Bradford for nearly forty years. After graduating HHS, Michael earned his BA from Northeastern University and his JD from Rutgers University.

He practiced law for 23 years where his focus was family and criminal law. He no longer practices and currently lives in Atkinson, NH. Though he wrote on the side for years, he began writing full-time in 2013. It was always his first love, one he regrets not pursuing full-time from the start.

When Michael isn’t writing novels and plays, he is copywriting for small businesses. There is a lot of demand for blog articles, ad copy, brochures and the like. Lately,  ghostwriting anything from speeches and essays to full book length projects has become more of a focus for him. At long last, following his passion and dedicating himself to writing is a dream come true!

The Heartbeat of Haverhill noted that his major works “Convention”, “Sumner Island”, “Why, Brother, Why”, and “Saltonstall Trials”, on the surface at least, seem to be different genres, and wondered what unites the books and short stories he writes.

“Great question! I wrote Sumner Island while I was still practicing law. It turned out to be a stew of some of the subjects I love most: ghosts, the 1920’s era, old resorts and the New England coast. It’s a love story within a ghost story within a murder mystery. Great fun, and people of all ages and genders love it for different reasons.

Convention is strictly a love story. It explores the old adage, ‘Be true to thyself,’ in the context of a regretful breakup. In a lot of my stories I like to explore the fallout from making bad choices.

Which brings me to the other book you mentioned: Why, Brother, Why? I was hired to do this book with a gentleman who’d been an opioid addict all his adult life and was now in his sixties. (The regretful choices theme again!) But this book is nonfiction, a biography about drug addiction and the horror it leads to. Unfortunately, the gentleman passed away shortly after it was published, which highlights the nightmare of our present opioid crisis.

Finally, there’s my new play just now being being produced, entitled Saltonstall’s Trial. As my first play it’s a departure in terms of format, though I’ve worked on short screenplays before. The theme, however, is familiar territory for me: self-doubt caused by a disruption in one’s psychological world. The play takes place during the Salem Witch Trials, but it’s more of a personal play about one man’s struggle to do the right thing in the face of mounting evidence that his lifelong mindset has been wrong.

…if I were to pick a genre I love best it’s definitely psychological suspense and classic horror. In fact, I have two books in the works (one of which is with an agent now), dealing with ghosts and demonic possession. But at the same time I’m working on a two-act drama about a classic “angel on the street, devil in the home,” personality, whose disturbing effect on his family is felt years after his death even as the town deifies him….”

Had The Heartbeat of Haverhill grown up in this fascinating city and learned of Saltonstall at an early age, we, too, would have been obsessed; we certainly are now. THOH can’ wait to see how both Nathaniel’s historic story and Michael’s modern day adventure in play-writing turns out.

 

THOH thanks Linda Menzies Greenstein for making connections and encouraging The Heartbeat of Haverhill to write this post.

Resources:
(c) Alison Colby-Campbell

2 comments on “Haverhill’s Legacy of Integrity is Brought to the Stage by Local Author

  1. atdomingue
    October 25, 2017

    Makes me jealous I don’t live in Haverhhill. 🙂 What a great story to share with people not just another witches story but a real life historical person’s story of regret. I’m guessing he might have felt this. See I’m already projecting my own sense of what must have happened. Not that I’m a fan of witchcraft but I am a fan of taking an opportunity to tell a real story. Great article Alison, I’d expect nothing less from you.

    • Brain4Rent/THoH
      October 25, 2017

      Wow Ann thank you. But the real story comes from Michael Cormier’s obsession that then triggered mine.

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Alison Colby-Campbell

Brain4Rent/THoH

Brain4Rent/THoH

Full-brain user demonstrating a healthy(?) obsession with marketing, promotion, writing, photography, house rabbits, the natural world, tennis, big and small problem solving, reading, hiking, HGTV and the flotsam & jetsam of everyday life. My three blogs Brain4Rent, The Heartbeat of Haverhill, Alison Colby-Campbell Photography are Wordpress based.

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