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Scarlet Letter: A beautiful production

(Hester and Arthur discuss their relationship with their daughter, Pearl. Pictured L to R: Samantha Hunter, Kylie Montoya, Keegan McCabe Hense.)

Hester and Arthur discuss their relationship with their daughter, Pearl.

Cynthia Berresse Ploski Art Correspondent The Chronicle-News

(originally published in the 5/8/19 edition of The Chronicle-News) Trinidad's Community Theatre topped off its successful winter season by presenting an elegant, hauntingly beautiful production of Nathanial Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter. Under the outstanding direction of Harriet and Fred Vaugeois, Phyllis Nagy's adaptation of the famous novel came to life on stage with excellent acting, dramatic storytelling and stunning costumes. This was truly a community undertaking. The Trinidad Schools were enlisted to provide creative input and assistance in staging the classic tale. The actors included teachers and students; and, under the expertise of Trinidad newcomer Leisa Norris, local volunteers Terry Brown, Karen Becker and Jeanie Dunk went to work on sewing machines refurbished by Jerry French, to research and produce custom, authentic period costumes for all the actors.

The visual effect of these beautifully crafted costumes against a plain gray background left the audience with lasting images to help their imaginations revisit the many emotional moments of the play.

The script is Colorado-born as well. It was originally commissioned by the Denver Center Theatre in 1994, and first performed there in that year. Later that year it went to New York, and now has come to grace our stage in Trinidad.

The Scarlet Letter takes place in Boston of the 1600's, where all town activities and communications were centered in the town marketplace.

Here, in addition to stalls for buying and selling, was erected the town gallows where public executions were carried out. The scaffold above, which those nooses hung menacingly, also served as a platform for public humiliation of people who had disobeyed the local laws.

This was a colony which had fled religious persecution in England, but whose leaders religiously persecuted anyone who disobeyed their strict moral laws.

For the past few weeks, this Pilgrims' Boston marketplace has been transported to the stage of the Trinidad Community Theatre. There, The Scarlet Letter played only two weekends, which was a pity. So much skill, passion and heart went into this production that it deserved a longer run.

As you may - or may not - remember the famous story you probably were required to read in high school English class: Puritan seamstress Hester Prynn bore a child, while her husband was presumably missing at sea. As punishment, she is forced to wear the scarlet letter "A" for Adulteress and stand with her daughter Pearl on the marketplace scaffold to endure public humiliation. She steadfastly refuses to name the father of her child, despite the threats of the colony's governor.

Hester's husband Roger Chillingsworth shows up, disguised as a doctor from the woods, intent upon finding Pearl's father and venting his revenge upon him. He administers herbal potions to the popular young pastor Arthur Dimmesdale, who is in rapidly declining health due to some undisclosed heart or chest ailment. Chillingsworth realizes the pastor is Pearl's father, and full of revenge, persecutes him.

Jailer Master Brackett helps out in the parsonage garden, where the Governor's sister Mistress Hibbins (who claims to be a witch) befriends Pearl, a wild child who loves the woods and acts oddly, compare to other children. In this production, there are two Pearls: young Pearl and, acting as narrator, the adult Pearl.

After Arthur undergoes an emotional breakdown, he and Hester reunite. But, weakened by emotion and illness, he dies at the foot of the scaffold. Under his torn shirt is revealed a bloody letter "A," a replica of Hester's letter, cut nearly to the bone - a representation of his guilt and self imposed reparation.

This script is multilayered and often metaphoric, setting forth concepts that are eternal. Love is stronger than hate. Guilt is self-destructive, and Truth endures.

Each member of the cast created a personal, believable, symbolic personification of one of these emotional concepts.

Hester, played with calm strength by Samantha Hunter, embodied love and fortitude. Keegan McCabe Hense as Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, graphically showed us the ravages that guilt wrecks on the body and spirit. Kris Miller as Governor Bellingham stood steadfastly for order and authority, though unable to control Hester's life.

Randy Koonse cuttingly portrayed Roger Chillingworth in a cool, demanding personification of revenge, while Cora Warrick-Barack as Mistress Hibbins, although voluptuously garbed in satin and lace of the upper class, personified the ability to live in dual realities and see beyond the visible.

As she succinctly informed young Pearl, "We all wear letter. You just can't see them."

The youngest character may also have been the wisest. Pearl (Kylie Montoya,) a talented actress at only ten years of age, is the only one who speaks what she honestly believes, no matter whether or not it is the norm. Pearl represents Truth. As the serene adult version of Pearl, Sofia Sinda flawlessly narrates this tale through a bridge between classical theatrical literature and modern theatre. This is an emotional script for amateur actors, but all of them performed professionally, illustrating the fact that our vibrant local theatre has achieved a well-deserved reputation for producing outstanding work. With atmospheric lighting by Nathan Segers and Danny Rubin, sound by Damian Gray, and the host of other Trinidad citizens who contributed so much, this dramatic production of The Scarlet Letter emerges as a sparkling jewel in the crown of our Trinidad Community Theatre's excellent winter season.

For further information or to purchase tickets call the Box Office 719-846-4765, stop by the SCRT Box Office at 131 W Main St, or go online at to see more about the actors and creators.

For more details about the SCRT, visit and follow us on Facebook & Instagram @SCRTheatre.

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