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The Scarlet Letter
Arthur Dirks
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The Scarlet Letter

Produced: Oct., 1999
Bridgewater State College Theater
Director: Suzanne Ramczyk
Scenery: Arthur Dirks
Facility: Campus Center Auditorium, Bridgewater, Ma.


I was really fascinated by this script. It had such a strange abstractness. In reading, the script was really spare, with lots of pauses - think Gunsmoke or Italian cinema. It had a mysterious feel, a kind of other-worldliness. Significantly, the show keys off of Pearl.

Eventually I understood that what I felt was the isolation of these people. That became even more interesting with the costumes. It was a group of people, still tied to their homeland, homesick for the familiar and the fashionable, and still the same human people with all the issues of surviving in life. A couple of times a year a ship might show up with news and mail, a few supplies and new immigrants. They really were on their own, day in and day out.

Stage setting

The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter

Suzanne and I talked early on about finery in dirt, and life in between in this colony. From this evolved a focus on the basic rustic quality of the environment. The audience is three feet away, but we still used Hemlock bark mulch on the floor and had to replenish each week. It silted into the lights a little, which was nice, but was a bit of a challenge for a few in the audience.

I had a conceit going, at first mostly by accident, about using only wood, stone and steel. There were slats and grates with lighting below, and the upstage surround was shaped by sections of mylar mirror draped with erosion cloth, offering glipses of reflection for the audience. The mirrors and cloth were found opportunistically in stock.

The forest was meaningful. For the colonists it was the symbol of all that was scary about the New World. It was dark and nearly impassable, and they were afraid of what came from there. The forest surrounding and above the stage was constructed of lattices on frames, for which I am indebted to Lynn Pektal's photo of a Met design under construction. It was more elaborated, of course.

All original content © 2007 copyright Arthur L. Dirks