Prime Stage Theatre opens season with ‘The Scarlet Letter’ | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

Prime Stage Theatre opens season with ‘The Scarlet Letter’

Mary Pickels
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Courtesy of Prime Stage Theatre
Juliet Forrest (Pearl), Allison Svagdis (Hester Prynne) and Kyle DePasquale (Arthur Dimmesdale) appear in Prime Stage Theatre’s “The Scarlet Letter.”

“The Scarlet Letter” opens the Prime Stage Theatre’s 23rd consecutive season.

The new, commissioned stage adaptation features Nathaniel Hawthorne, the book’s author, as an onstage character.

Performances will be held at the New Hazlett Theater Center for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh.

Liam Macik, a Mt. Lebanon High School graduate, and a founder of Pittsburgh’s Throughline Theatre Company, is writer and director. According to a news release, he includes Hawthorne, played by Pittsburgh actor Everett Lowe, to intermittently describe during the show his triumphs and struggles while writing the book.

Those familiar with the story will recall Hester Prynne as a single mother in the 1640s, raising a child out of wedlock in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. By keeping her child’s father’s identity secret, Prynne is ostracized by the town while struggling to create a life of dignity for herself and her daughter.

In recognition of other single parents’ efforts, the theater is offering free admission to opening night, Nov. 2, to the first 23 who email Tina Cerny, Prime Stage assistant operations director, at [email protected]

“According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 13.7 million single parents in the U.S. raising 22.4 million children,” says Wayne Brinda, Prime Stage’s artistic producing director, in a release.

Following the performance, single parents in attendance will be honored at the opening night reception. Throughout the show’s run, Angels’ Place will provide information at the theater. The Pittsburgh organization works to help families in need with quality early childhood education, child care and family support at no or reduced cost.

Cast members include Allison Svagdis as Hester Prynne, Kyle DePasquale as Arthur Dimmesdale and Juliet Forrest as Hester’s daughter, Pearl.

Svagdis, 21, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., is a Point Park University senior acting major. Her role as Hester is her first with Prime Stage Theatre.

Although “The Scarlet Letter” was on her high school required reading list, it did not speak to her at the time.

“I read it again before going in to audition. My perspective changed from high school to college, in that story. It is full of beautiful, flowery language, but it’s a little dense for high-schoolers,” she says.

Svagdis says she auditions as much as her academic schedule allows.

“Last year I was in a conservatory show with Point Park, and that ate up a good portion of my time,” she says.

“(Hester) is such, I feel like, a classic feminist icon,” Svagdis says of her interest in the role.

“I love strong female roles. She does not speak a lot in the novel, only when necessary,” she adds. She credits Macik with making the character the “central, driving force in this play.”

“He’s made it more her story, which I really appreciate,” Svagdis says.

She sees playing Hestern Prynne as a good opportunity for a young thespian. “I will hold this close to my heart for years and years to come,” she says. Svagdis hopes to move west after graduation and pursue an acting and film career.

The production is the first of three in a season that’s been themed — “see me for who I am.”

Prime Stage’s season continues in March with Christopher Sergel’s stage play “The Outsiders,” based on S.E. Hinton’s novel, and the regional premiere of Julie Jensen’s “Mockingbird,” based on Kathryn Erskine’s novel.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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