EHHS Experiences The Scarlet Letter Beyond its Pages

On October 27, 2019, EHHS welcomed the Classic Repertory Company who performed The Scarlet Letter for all juniors and selected seniors. The company will also be returning later on this year to perform their version of Romeo and Juliet.

The Classic Repertory Company is a traveling theatre group. Each year, they hire actors to perform at least two shows across the area. . They are stationed in Boston Massachusetts and travel to schools each season to perform plays. This year, they are performing The Scarlet Letter and Romeo and Juliet. The company puts on two shows each season with only five weeks of practice. Their actors are usually hired right out of college to perform these plays, which serves as a good stepping stone for many new graduates. Since the Classic Repertory Company only has a total of six actors, the hiring process is very strict. This season, the actors include: Jamie Semel, Shanelle Villegas, Issy Zoppo, Isaiah Muchael Grace, Alex Hanscom, and Courtney Beth Platio. Each member of the cast has had prior experience in acting, performing multiples roles from Peter and the Starcatcher to 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. These actors are beyond talented and it showed in their performance in The Scarlet Letter.

The Scarlet Letter performed at EHHS was a sixty minute play based off of the Carol Gilligan script. Carol Gilligan’s version was from Pearl, Hester’s daughter’s perspective. Pearl looks back at her life and narrates the series of events that her mother went through. In the original Nathaniel Hawthorne tale, Hester Prynne is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest as punishment for adultery and the birth of her daughter, Pearl. The play jumped from scene to scene with Pearl telling the audience not only what she went through, but also what she felt. Some of the performers played multiple roles throughout the play. They also use minimal props to leave creative liberty to the audience. The Classic Repertory Company’s mission is to “speak powerfully to the vital ideas of our time” (New Rep Theatre). Their performance of The Scarlet Letter, allows EHHS students to not only enjoy, but also interpret The Scarlet Letter in their own way, as a majority of students did not read the novel.

To prepare for the play, EHHS juniors who were not reading the novel compared The Scarlet Letter to The Crucible, which they are currently reading in class. Some teachers helped to bridge this connection by making comparison worksheets and having in class discussions relating common themes from both texts. This helped students who may not have read The Scarlet Letter see a new understanding through the lens of a novel they are familiar with.

As the majority of the junior class and some seniors went, each student had different opinions on the performance, mostly based around if they are reading or already read The Scarlet Letter. Since only the Honors American Literature classes not only read but also write a paper based off of the novel, they understood the themes from The Scarlet Letter more than others. Junior Larry Mingione expressed some confusion after seeing the performance; “I’m sure if I read it, I would have understood it better but I didn’t read it so I just didn’t understand it.” Senior Alina Tran who has read The Scarlet Letter noted, “It was accurate until the end. I think they got the main point across, but I feel like they were missing some key points that made The Scarlet Letter memorable, like Dimmesdale dying at the podium as he confessed [...] it was overall pretty much alike, but there was some stuff that was missing that I think would’ve helped people who didn’t read the book understand it more.”

The Classic Repertory Company definitely stood out to EHHS students and will be returning later on in the year to perform Romeo and Juliet for the freshman classes.