Why Do You Wear That Letter?

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Why Do You Wear That Letter?

A Backstage look of The Scarlet Letter

A Backstage look of The Scarlet Letter

Your Photo World Ltd.

A Backstage look of The Scarlet Letter

Your Photo World Ltd.

Your Photo World Ltd.

A Backstage look of The Scarlet Letter

Taylor Smith, Contributing Writer

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Throughout history, women have been shamed for their sexuality while their male counterparts are revered for their promiscuity. In the event of unwanted pregnancy, women have to physically carry that burden and public shame while the father can walk away if they choose with little to no repercussions. The Theatre and Performance Studies program performed a spectacular and enthralling production of a literary classic during the first weekend of November. Sarah Saltwick’s adaptation of the Scarlet Letter works to beautifully showcase Hester Prynne’s journey as a single mother and Pearl’s unprecedented childhood. Taking place outside of Boston in the same historical context as Nathanial Hawthorne’s original novel, Pearl is growing up away from society with her mother. The two of them have created a life of their own away from the peering eyes of society. However, it is clear that this was not by choice. Despite Pearl growing into a young woman, the townspeople have not reclaimed Hester as one of their own. Hester continues to wear the scarlet “A” as a symbol of love and betrayal. In return, that red and gold letter allows Hester to reclaim her identity. This symbolism is misunderstood by the townspeople as they believe she continues to wear the “A” as a means to throw her promiscuity in their faces.

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A Backstage look of The Scarlet Letter

The actors’ incredible performances left the audience yearning for the Prynne women’s acceptance. However, this need is never fulfilled. Instead, the townspeople continue to ridicule them and eventually accuse Pearl of being a witch. This shines a bright light on the power of fear and lack of understanding. While women are no longer accused of witchcraft for being unusual or having opinions, there are still powers that try to silence them and use similar tactics to discredit their claims. This very notion makes the performance of this classic both relevant and necessary. The marginalization of women is nowhere near over, and their voices need to be heard. Hester and Pearl reinforce this need by remaining strong in spite of the piercing gazes and hurtful banter.

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A scene in The Scarlet Letter

The Prynne women will not allow labels to define who they are and the identities they make for themselves. However, Pearl is a growing girl with a lot of questions. Out of everything in the world that she has yet to understand, the most important to her is why her mother wears that letter. Hester most likely trying to shield her young girl from the truth, gives a variety of different answers throughout the performance. Magali Souffrant’s adorable performance of Pearl captivates the audience and her innocence excuses her constant questioning. Hester, played by Maya Shelton, never loses her composure when telling her daughter, who has become her source of happiness, all of the reasons why she wears the “A”. It is not until the very end of the performance that Hester finally opens up and shares the truth about why she wears that letter.

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