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Hastings resident's adaptation of 'The Scarlet Letter' comes to stage

Leah Christine, playing Hester Prynne, and Theo Ebarb, as Arthur Dimmesdale, rehearse with "The Scarlet Letter" director Libby Wasylik. Kelsey Roy / RiverTown Multimedia

When the opportunity to write her own stage adaptation of "The Scarlet Letter" came up while working with a theater company in the 1990s, Hastings resident Kelli Tatum couldn't refuse.

"It was always my favorite book in high school. The artistic director — I had probably been talking about if for 10 years — said to me, 'I put it on this season so you better write it,'" Tatum said.

Now, with the members of (lumin)theater lab, it is coming to the stage in Hastings.

Although particularly faithful to the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne set in the 17th century, guests to the show can expect to feel an open interpretation of time.

"There are all these issues that are affecting our society today that are absolutely relevant in the story," Tatum said.

When Tatum first started her adaptation, she was inspired by the role that reality television was playing at the time.

"'Survivor' started around that time and I found it really horrifying that we were watching people be horrible to one another... It just brought up these memories of 'The Scarlet Letter' and all of the issues the novel brings forward," Tatum said.

One of the main themes of the novel and her adaptation, Tatum said, is something that everyone can relate to — alienation.

"We've all felt alienated whether its from a group of people, or as a kid growing up and you feel like no one understands you, or you just don't have what you feel is a community," Tatum said.

"We've all had moments where we feel like the odd duck out. That's probably spurred me the most."

In order to transcend time on stage, director Libby Wasylik made choices in costume that mixed more old fashioned and modern styles, Tatum said. The audience will see long skirts and aprons, but more modern waffle shirts will remind them more of the present.

Audience members can also expect to be on the inside when it comes to the character's thoughts.

"What we really tried to do was develop the interior lives of the characters," Wasylik said. "The cast has done a beautiful job of helping to show the audience what is really taking place and what is the subtext of the beautiful minds of the characters."

The actors have been rehearsing the play since October, which has allowed them to really get to know their characters.

For her role of Hester Prynne, Leah Christine worked through several exercises to get to know the character on a deeper level.

"In my individual work, I have analyzed the scenes, and from there I find the 10 lines that embody my character the best," Christine said.

Along with her analysis, she also creates a playlist of songs that she feels embodies the different moods and trials of Hester's journey. She listens to this playlist on the way to rehearsals in order to get her into her role. It also helps that Hester Prynne is a relatable character.

"Hester is a character everyone can relate to, especially the isolation. But she is also genuine and hopeful, and that's inspiring. She may be being isolated, but she always manages to stay hopeful," Christine said.

Overall, Tatum hopes that her adaptation will leave audiences wanting to be kind of others.

"We have what we've been calling 'outrage culture' where we can hide behind a keyboard and we can fire something off to shame someone for a post that they made without actually knowing all of the facts or without considering our own selves and maybe reacting in kindness is a better way to go," Tatum said.

"The Scarlet Letter" will show at Hastings City Hall on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Feb. 8-23. All shows start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are sold on a scale basis. Patrons can pay any amount in the range of $11 to $49 per ticket. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit lumintheaterlab.com.