‘Scarlet Letter’ takes stage in Smyrna Saturday

From left, Jeff Mask as Roger Chillingworth, Don Lonski as Arthur Dimmesdale, Breanna Pierce as Hester Prynne, Teresa Pierce as Pearl Prynne and Erin Rich as Mistress Hibbins, star in Stanton’s 4th Wall production of “The Scarlet Letter” Saturday night at 7 at the Smyrna Opera House. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

SMYRNA — The Nathaniel Hawthorne classic “The Scarlet Letter” takes the stage at the Smyrna Opera House Saturday by way of Stanton’s 4th Wall theater troupe.

While the show differs from the novel in some ways, many will recognize the storyline, most likely part of their school curriculum.

“It’s something I hadn’t thought about in a very long time, but it’s a great story that I think a broad audience will appreciate,” said Erin Rich of Dover who plays Mistress Hubbins.

The play is set in 17th century Puritan Massachusetts but still relates to modern day.

“The play is about a woman who is jailed for committing adultery and forced to be shamed for it every day and what we see her and the other characters go through — guilt, regret, problems with authority, these are all aspects of the human condition,” said Larry Mota, portraying Gov. Billingham, one of the town’s fathers.

“Even though we are living 350 years after the play takes place, we are still dealing with all the same things, although a lot of it may be expressed on social media rather than in the town square.”

Performing a show set so far back has its challenges but it also gives many of the actors a chance to flourish.

From left, Don Lonski as Arthur Dimmesdale, Jeff Mask as Roger Chillingworth and Teresa Pierce as Pearl Prynne. The play is set in 17th century Puritan Massachusetts but the actors say it still relates to modern day.

For Don Loski, an original member of the group, portraying the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, a period piece is an ideal fit.

“I love history and I actually teach about the history of theater at Wesley College where we discuss theater all the way back to ancient Greece,” he said. “The dialogue may seem unnatural to some people but I love it, especially after becoming familiar with so many historical pieces over the years.”

Teresa Pierce is also suited for the performance. She’s worked as a historical reenactor with First State Heritage Park in Dover for several years.

Her comfortability with period drama is essential as her role of Pearl Prynne serves a dual role of both narrator and daughter of Hester Prynne, the story’s protagonist.

“Pearl is a really great character because she’s the only one who challenges the Puritan sensibilities, and how people are treated for their actions,” she said.

For Ms. Rich, the costumes, lines and dialect are what enables her to get into the Puritan mindset and understand their actions and judgments.

“All of that helps me get into character and takes me to that time and I think the audience will definitely feel that suspension from reality and the modern world when they’re watching,” she said.

Erin Rich, left, as Mistress Hibbins lends a hand to Teresa Pierce as Pearl Prynne.

Stanton’s 4th Wall was assembled five years ago and has since done regular comedy revues and one large production per year. In recent years they have split shows between the Rockshop in Camden and the Smyrna Opera House. The show was performed in Camden last week.

Although moving between shows can be stressful, it does allow the group to appeal to a wider audience than performing at only one venue.

“Last year we did ‘A Few Good Men’ at both locations and when we were working with the Opera House to set up something for this year, they said they’d like another drama and this play came up and it was something everyone liked,” said Jeff Mask, another original member, playing the role of Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband.

Drama is Ms. Rich’s favorite genre to perform so this option worked out perfectly.

“We do a lot of comedy and that’s a lot of fun and rewarding because you get the laugh from the audience right then, but dramas are more of a challenge and they leave me feeling really fulfilled when I know I’ve portrayed a character really well,” she said.

Saturday’s performance at the Smyrna Opera House starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10-20 and available at the door or at smyrnaoperahouse.org. Smyrna Opera House is at 7 W. South St.

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