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May. 08 2023

TOFANA takes the stage at Sisters Freehold in Baltimore

By Gavin Witt | Posted in Interviews, Staff Blogs, WBJC Programs | Comments Off on TOFANA takes the stage at Sisters Freehold in Baltimore

For someone as deliciously, enduringly notorious–even infamous–as Giulia Tofana, the legendary Renaissance poisoner, strangely little is actually known. For certain, at least.

Plenty of speculation and mythology has accumulated over the centuries since her (probable) execution for helping her fellow Italian wives become happy, wealthy widows via the administration of a secret house-blend of undectable toxins disguised as simple cosmetics. This was the nefarious “Acqua Tofana,” as it came to be called, and by some accounts it was responsible for the death-by-poison of some 600 unwitting husbands.

That’s how the story goes, anyhow–embellished by tales of her confession under torture and enriched by the collective imaginations of generations since. Further fueled by the recognition that, far from being merely a serial killer run amok, Tofana claimed to work on behalf of the long-suffering women and wives of her day, whose options were limited and whose lives were subject to the will of the men around them.

Now there’s a new entry in the ever-evolving saga of Giulia Tofana. Sparked by the glimmer of an idea and fueled by a year of research, playwright Julia Marks has crafted a new play that reframes the story around Giulia, her mother, and her daughter, all of whom were allegedly embroiled in the sophisticated manufacture and distribution network that brought wealth, notoriety, and a gruesome end.

Saturday May 13th and Sunday May 14th this new original play, developed here in Baltimore, will have a staged reading courtesy of new theater ensemble Sisters Freehold and their Horticulture Playwrights Workshop. The program’s director, dramaturg Abigail Cady, joined me in the WBJC studio to chat about the piece and the project.

For those wanting to know more. or to grab tickets, you can visit


or email abby@sistersfreehold.org.

Performances are at Eagle’s Hall of Zion Church of the City of Baltimore 400 E. Lexington

Tickets are Pay-What-You-Can (with a $15 suggested donation)


Hear my conversation with Abby here:

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WBJC listeners and Baltimore audiences may know Gavin from his nearly 20 years as dramaturg and associate artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage (in which capacity he was a frequent guest on WBJC to talk about programs and events), or from regular appearances alongside Jonathan Palevsky at the Charles Theater for Cinema Sundays discussions. A director, dramaturg, producer, translator, and adaptor who also teaches on the theater faculty at Towson University, Gavin is a recent addition to the WBJC team and delighted to play this new role.

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